what they are and how to avoid this problem
The site cramps are a fairly common manifestation consisting of muscle contraction that can temporarily affect muscle tissue, making it difficult to use.
Although painful, cramps are transient and do not represent a serious health problem. They usually occur during or after physical activity, although they can also occur during sleep.
Understand why they occur, what to do about them and how to avoid them.
What are cramps?
Cramps can be defined as a sudden, painful and involuntary contraction of one or more muscles in the body. Although they usually affect the legs (calves) and feet, they can also affect other areas of the body such as the arms, abdomen, among others.
The duration of the cramps can be, on average, from a few seconds to 15 minutes and the episode can be repeated several times in the same day.
When cramps occur, it means that the muscle fibers have contracted, producing tension and a feeling of tightness and irritability.
Many variables can cause this behavior. Among them:
- Engaging in strenuous physical activity in a hot environment;
- Poor circulation in the legs (in case of venous insufficiency);
- Muscle fatigue;
- Magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium and B vitamins (B1, B5 and B6) deficiency;
- Nerve compression or spinal cord injury;
- Radiculopathy in the neck or back.
In addition, there are medications whose side effects may include cramping. Some of these medications are:
- Drugs, such as donepezyl, terbutaline, tolcapone, a statin or salbutamol;
- Diuretics, especially Furosemide;
In addition to the causes that explain cramps, there are risk factors that can make them more frequent. Some of these are:
The main symptom of muscle cramps is pain that can be severe, intense, and sharp and may occur in the calves of the leg, thighs, or soles of the feet. In addition, inflammation may occur, which may limit the use of the affected muscle.
Cramping can also result in a lump or nodule in the muscle.
Although cramps are usually transient and treatable at home, there are situations when it may be advisable to seek medical attention. You should do so if the cramps:
- They cause a lot of pain;
- They appear accompanied by numbness, muscle swelling, redness or skin changes;
- They cause muscle weakness that lasts over time;
- They occur very regularly;
- They always last more than 10 minutes;
- They have no apparent identified cause;
- They interfere with sleep and quality of life.
To relieve the symptoms associated with cramps, you should massage and stretch the affected muscle(s), you can also apply heat with a heating pad or take a hot bath.
Regular stretching is one way to prevent cramps, for example in the legs. Try the following exercise:
- Stand in front of a wall, one arm’s length away and with your feet completely flat on the floor;
- Then bend forward, leaning against the wall, until you feel your calves stretch. Hold the position for two to three seconds;
- Repeat these steps for five minutes, three times a day.
Cramps in the calves or front part of the thigh
If the cramps affect the calf or the front of the thigh, you should place your full body weight on the leg where the cramp is, then gently bend the knee.
Another option is to sit or lie down with your leg straight and place your foot toward your head.
Cramps in the front of the thigh, in the quadriceps
If you have cramps in this area of the body, choose to lean back in a chair, grab your foot and place it next to the gluteus maximus, extending the thigh muscle as far as possible. You can then massage the muscle and apply ice or magnesium sulfate.
To prevent cramps, you should first try to avoid all your risk factors. In addition, you should:
- Drink about 1.5 liters of water a day to ensure proper hydration of muscle cells, which helps muscles contract and relax normally;
- Eat a healthy diet rich in foods rich in vitamins (A, D, and E), potassium, magnesium, and calcium, such as sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, spinach, arugula, and pulses;
- Don’t overdo physical exertion;
- Warm up well before practicing a sport and stretch after the effort;
- Do plyometric exercises (decelerating and accelerating muscles to create a cycle of stretching and contracting);
- For people who usually suffer from night cramps, stretching for 15 minutes before bed is recommended.