Relax to get rid of cramps.
1)A muscle cramp is a painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. Night time leg cramps are sudden spasms of muscles in the calf. A muscle cramp occurs just as you are falling asleep or waking up. A muscle that involuntarily contracts without our conscious will is called a "spasm." If the spasm is forceful and sustained, it becomes a "cramp". Overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain or simply holding a position for a prolonged period of time may result in a muscle cramp.
2)As you get older the risk of muscle cramps increases. When older people lose muscle mass, the remaining muscle may get overstressed more easily and that may increase the risk of cramps. It could also be due to dehydration. Athletes who become fatigued and dehydrated while participating in warm-weather sports frequently develop muscle cramps. During pregnancy, muscle cramps are also more common. You may be at higher risk of muscle cramps if you have diabetes, or nerve, liver or thyroid disorders.
3) Although most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as inadequate blood supply and narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs and can produce cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you're exercising. Or it could be due to nerve compression in your spine that can produce cramp-like pain in your legs. It could also be due to mineral depletion and too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet. Some medications prescribed for high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and asthma can produce cramps.
4) The primary treatment of a muscle cramp is to relax the affected muscle. This involves stretching, massage, and heat application. Other treatments are directed toward the underlying cause of the muscle cramps and can include rehydration, electrolyte repletion, hormone treatment and calcium supplementation. Stretch the cramped muscle and gently rub it to help it relax. For a calf cramp, put your weight on your cramped leg and bend your knee slightly. If you're unable to stand, sit on the floor or in a chair with your affected leg extended. Pull the top of your foot on the affected side toward your head while your leg remains in a straight position. This will help ease a back thigh (hamstring) cramp. For a front thigh (quadriceps) cramp, use a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot on the affected side up toward your buttock. A warm towel or heating pad on tense or tight muscles helps. A warm bath or directing the stream of a hot shower on to the cramped muscle also can help.
5)To prevent cramps drink plenty of liquids every day. Fluids help your muscles contract and relax and keep muscle cells hydrated. During any activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids after you have finished. Stretch your muscles before and after you use any muscle for an extended period. If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime. Light exercise, such as riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime, also may help prevent cramps while you're sleeping. Persisting muscle cramps can require blood testing and an evaluation by a neurologist.
(Information: Dr Sreekumar Sreedharan, Specialist Physician, Aster Union Medical Centre, Karama, Dubai)
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