A cramp can be defined as a condition in which there is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of the muscles. Cramping is a common condition that most people experience at one point in their lives. Muscle cramps can cause severe pain.
However, they are generally harmless, muscle cramps can make it impossible to use the affected muscle at that particular time. Some of the common causes of exercise include long periods of exercise, physical labor, especially in hot weather, medications and certain medical conditions can lead to muscle cramps. Cramps mostly occur in the leg muscles, especially in the calf. It usually presents as a sudden, sharp pain in the leg. You might also feel a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath the skin. This piece would focus on some of the common reasons why you may develop cramp.
Reasons Your Muscles May Develop Cramp
- Dehydration: This is one of the most common reasons why you may develop muscle cramp. Muscle cramping can be described as an over-activation or contraction of a muscle. Muscles are activated based on a balance of electric signals and ions. Dehydration alters the pool of signals. So changing that signal, the body usually can’t figure out if the signal is coming from the brain, or just because there’s an electrical imbalance around the cell. The muscles may have a hard time processing the right signals, and this overactivity usually leads to pain. One way of getting rid of this problem is by hydrating. The recommended daily intake requirement of water is around 2.5 liters. One way of going about this is to get a 2.5 liters bottle, fill it up by morning, and ensure you finish drinking before going to bed at night.
- Holding a random position for a long time: Holding a random position for a long time can lead to the development of cramps. As an illustration, nothing can be more irritating than having a crooked piece of art hanging in your apartment, except for the cramp you develop in your arm or the lower back while trying to hang it the right way. It’s common to develop a muscle strain after holding a position for a long period of time. Studies have shown that doing what the body isn’t trained to do could constantly, activates a muscle and breaks it down a little bit. The breakdown of the muscle could cause a build-up of lactic acid which can cause the muscles to go into spasms. The good news, however, is that this type of cramp goes away with time. It usually improves within a few hours. It’s important to consult your physician if the cramp interrupts with your sleep at night.
- Nerve compression: This is a common phenomenon that is also referred to as “pinched nerve”. There is a series of nerves that go all the way from the brain down to the spinal cord. There are a lot of conditions that could lead to the development of muscle cramp. Some of these conditions include herniation of the intervertebral discs, arthritis, and so on can cause irritation to the nerve. This is why it’s important not to push yourself, especially when exercising. Endeavor to learn when your body is saying “no”. One way to improve the discomfort caused by cramping is by taking a regular dose of anti-inflammatory medications. In a situation where the first line of defense doesn’t get the job done in a few days, it might be important to consult your physician.
- Pregnancy: Women experiences a lot of changes in their body during pregnancy. This includes both physical and hormonal changes. These hormonal changes can lead to muscle cramps. These cramps mostly occur in the calf or foot region, and usually gets worse at night, and during the second and third trimester. The reason for this isn’t clear yet, however, there are ways to improve the pain. Some of the ways of improving cramp during pregnancy include drinking sufficient amount of water, stretching, and consuming magnesium supplements. However, you shouldn’t consume magnesium supplements without the guidance of your physician. An overdose of this supplement could have adverse effects on the body.
- Inadequate blood supply: One of the common reasons for muscle cramps is when there is an inadequate flow of blood to the affected part of the body.
This mostly affects parts of the body such as the legs, arms, calf and so on. This mostly occurs due to a build-up of cholesterol in the blood, but also be due to a pinched artery. Ovarian mass or tumors can also constrict vessels and lead to cramps. You should go see a physician if you notice that you might have high cholesterol. One sign to know that a runner has compartment syndrome is when he/she develops muscle cramps consistently during training. You should consult your physician as soon as you notice this.
- Mineral deficiency: The loss of electrolytes and other minerals in the body could lead to muscle cramping. A low amount of electrolytes and other minerals in the body would lead to an imbalance, hence trigger spontaneous cramping in the body. An imbalance in electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, magnesium or potassium can lead to cramping. However, there are sports drinks that can help reduce cramps. These drinks contain the electrolytes the body needs such as sodium, magnesium and so on. There are also fruits and vegetables that are rich in minerals. Examples of these include banana, sweet potatoes, spinach, and yoghurt.
- Overuse: One of the most common causes of muscle cramping is the overuse of a muscle. This mostly occurs when people go on a long run, or during a boot camp. The nervous system is the part of the body that suffers this. Involuntary cramps occur when the nerves running from the central nervous system, which includes the brain and the spinal cord becomes overexcited. Some of the ways of treating this condition include rest and stretching.
5 Reasons Your Muscles Are Cramping All The Damn Time. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a19942189/why-muscles-cramp/
7 Reasons Why Your Muscles Cramp. (2019). Retrieved from http://blog.familypracticewexford.com/7-reasons-why-your-muscles-cramp/
7 Reasons Your Muscles Are Cramping. (2019). Retrieved from https://mantissocietystudycenter.blogspot.com/2017/08/7-reasons-your-muscles-are-cramping.html