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Vital: WORDS OF WISDOM.

AGONISING leg cramps cost Scotland's rising young tennis star Andrew Murray a match he desperately wanted to win.

The 18-year-old was just two points away from victory at the Stella Artois Championships last week at Queen's when he was struck down by the painful condition.

Muscle cramps regularly affect athletes but they can also be a problem for the rest of us too.

In fact, doctors estimate up to 15 percent of us suffer from cramps.

So should you worry if you get them? Vital gives you the facts WHAT ARE MUSCLE CRAMPS? Cramps happen when muscle fibres suddenly become forced and stiff, triggering a spasm, most commonly in the legs.

WHO IS MOST AT RISK? Athletes who push their body to the limit are worst hit. Cramps are also a well known side effect of pregnancy. Doctors think they may be triggered by low calcium levels as your growing baby takes the lion's share of vitamins in your body. Cramps are also common in older people and overweight people, particularly at night.

WHEN SHOULD YOU WORRY? Occasionally, cramps can be caused by an underlying medical condition such as anaemia, diabetes, bad circulation or an underactive thyroid. If they happen regularly, then visit your GPHOWCAN YOU AVOID THEM? Drink six to eight glasses of water a day. After exercising, stretch your muscles. Certain mineral deficiencies can trigger cramp. Take a calcium and magnesium supplement on a daily basis.

Bananas which are rich in potassium have also been proven to help.

If you're hit by cramps at night, then taking a hot bath before bed can help. Drinking Camomile tea is also beneficial as it helps raise levels of glycine - an amino acid known to relieve muscle spasms HOWDO YOU GET RID OF THEM? For quick pain relief, try a calf stretch: Stand about two feet away from a wall. Place the palms of your hands flat against the wall at eye level. Take a step forward with your 'good leg' and bend slightly at the knee. Lean into the wall, keeping your cramped leg straight, heel flat on the floor and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch three times.

Rubbing the painful muscle or applying a cold compress can also help get rid of muscle cramps

CAPTION(S):

IN AGONY: Andrew Murray
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jun 14, 2005
Words:383
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