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You are on your morning jog, or just stretching out doing some yoga poses. Suddenly, you feel an unbearable pain in the calf of your leg. You are unable to stand out and cry out in pain....Is this situation too familiar with you?
What you may be experiencing is generally called Muscle cramps. Do not worry! It is common. The pain only lasts about a few seconds and will soon disappear.
Here is an overview of what exactly are these painful episodes and why they are caused.
What Are Muscle Cramps:
Muscle cramps are simply caused when our voluntary muscles suddenly contract and refuse to relax.
Our voluntary muscles are those muscles which are in our control, i.e., our legs, hands, neck, etc. Muscles contract and relax continuously when they are moving.
When there is extra pressure on any muscle, they may contract suddenly causing a pain. Stretching the muscle a little will help relax the muscle and get rid of the cramp.
Muscle cramps can happen anywhere, whether you are exercising or sleeping. They are most common on the muscles of the calf of our legs.
Although muscle cramps are normal and almost everyone experiences them in their lifetime, there may be some underlying causes to these painful episodes.
Read on to know more about the various reasons which cause muscle cramps.
1) Kidney Disorder:
When a person is suffering from a dysfunctional kidney, there may be extra phosphorous build-up in the body, which may result in low calcium levels.
And low calcium levels are often the major causes for muscle cramps.
Also, certain medications given to kidney patients, result in calcium being flushed out of the body, resulting in cramps.
2) Electrolyte Imbalance:
Another important cause of muscle cramps is dehydration. Sweating when exercising can cause fluid losses in the body, along with loss of certain minerals like potassium, sodium chloride and magnesium.
This leads to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, eventually leading to muscle cramps. It can be avoided by keeping yourself hydrated, throughout your workout, by having water fortified with electrolytes.
3) Muscle Overuse:
Working out a certain muscle continuously over a period of time can lead to muscle overuse. Athletes most commonly experience sudden muscle cramps when on a run.
That is because during running, the calf muscles of the legs are overworked, which causes them to contract suddenly. Muscle cramps during runs are common. Proper exercising can help relax these sudden cramps.
3) Nerve Compression:
Sometimes, the nerves of your spine are compressed to produce muscle cramps. As all the nerves are connected to the spinal cord, a nerve compressed in the spinal cord can pull a nerve in the leg, leading to a muscle cramp.
4) Use Of Certain Medications:
Use of diuretics, which are given to kidney patients can cause fluid loses in the body, leading to muscle cramps.
Medications given to high blood pressure and asthma patients also cause muscle cramps, as they decrease the amount of potassium, calcium and magnesium in the body, leading to electrolyte imbalance.
5) Hormonal Imbalance:
Women who are undergoing menopause can experience frequent muscle cramps, as the oestrogen levels in the body are low at the time. Low oestrogen levels lead to muscle fatigue, which can cause muscle cramps.
When you are experiencing muscle cramps, here are a few things you can do to relieve them:
- Light stretching of the cramped up muscle can help.
- Applying ice can help relax the muscle.
- Massaging the cramped up muscle can also help.
You can prevent muscle cramps in the future by taking a diet rich in calcium and magnesium. Adequate fluid intake is also important to keep them at bay.
Make sure to not stretch one particular muscle continuously and you will never have muscle cramps ruining your run again.