Cramps can be experienced regularly or at a given time. When they come they can be fleeting but extremely painful. and if it comes on a daily or monthly basis, it can even lower a person’s well-being and quality of everyday life.
Night cramps can be particularly painful and can disrupt our sleeping patterns if experienced on a regular basis. And for many women, menstrual cramps can be a huge burden on a monthly basis.
If you want to get rid of cramps then find out what exactly causes cramps and how you can effectively relieve them and prevent them from occurring.
What Are Cramps and What Causes Them?
Most commonly, cramps can be a result of electrolyte imbalance due to the lack of fluid in your system. They most commonly come about if you’ve overexerted your muscles or suffer from general dehydration. When dehydration occurs, the electrolytes suffer and the minerals that make up the electrolytes, sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, diminish rapidly and an imbalance occurs. Since electrolytes are essential for healthy cell function, these also help with the optimum function of our muscles.
We can also get cramps from long periods of inactivity like sitting down without moving for a long time. Certain medications can make us prone to experiencing cramps so check with your doctor if you are on long-term medication and get cramps on a regular basis.
Cramps can potentially occur in every muscle in the body but they most commonly happen in the calves, feet and thighs.
What Are The Different Types of Cramp?
- True Cramps – these are the most common types of cramps which we have all probably suffered from one time or another. These usually involve part or all of a single muscle or a group of muscles that generally act together and are thought to be affected by the nerves that stimulate the muscles.
- Dysmenorrhea – these are also known as menstrual cramps. They are a result of the uterus (a muscle itself) contracting and if this happens too strongly the oxygen supply is cut off to the muscle tissue and pain ensues.
- Injury Cramps – if the body has experienced an injury then the muscle tries to protect it by spasming in an attempt to stabilise the injured area.
- Rest Cramps – these happen with a long period of inactivity and can sometimes happen at night known as night cramps.
- Dystonic Cramps – these types of cramps occur when there is repetitive movement in one area such as in the hands when we write for too long.
How To Get Rid of Cramps
There are various ways you can help get rid of cramps. When experiencing a cramp it can be quite debilitating and you usually have to stop what you’re doing suddenly.
Stretching is the number one way to help relieve the pain and longevity of a true cramp. This can simply involve walking around if it occurs in the leg or foot area. For calf cramps you can gently stretch the leg by facing a wall and hold both hands out bending the unaffected leg with the affected leg stretched out behind.
If you do regular exercise such as running, it’s a great practice to make sure you stretch out before and after to prevent cramps caused by the vigorous exercise.
If you suffer from night cramps then doing evening stretches in your legs before going to bed will help prevent painful night cramps from occurring.
Massaging is another great and effective way to relieve the symptoms of cramp. Relaxing the muscle through gentle massage will help the pain cease quite quickly.
Applying heat in the form of a heated pad or hot water bottle will further relax the muscle and calm down the spasming. This is particularly helpful in menstrual cramping. A hot shower will also be effective making sure the cramping area is focused on.
How To Prevent Cramps
- Leg exercises can help when you find yourself sitting for long periods of time. Doing ankle flexes will allow the oxygen to flow up the legs and to the muscle tissues. If possible make sure you take breaks and walk around.
- Hydration is really important if you suffer from cramps regularly. It could be a case of keeping yourself hydrated to keep the cramps away especially if you exercise. Some sports drinks contain added electrolytes that could help replenish the lost electrolytes through sweating.
- Vitamin supplements may be beneficial if you suffer from cramps due to pregnancy. Adequate intakes of calcium and magnesium can help to relieve cramping when pregnant but make sure you consult your doctor before taking anything. Calcium and magnesium intake can also help with night cramps.
- Footwear is another factor to think about if you suffer from cramps regularly. Make sure you wear comfortable cushioned shoes with a good arch support. This will help support the rest of the muscles in your leg and prevent injuries to the foot.
- Pillows are great if you place them under your knees while in bed. This will help prevent night cramps by elevating the blood flow to the muscles.