What are muscle cramps?
Normally, when we move, there are skeletal muscles involved in it. To execute a particular move, a muscle or a group of muscles will have to alternately contract and relax. In some instances, however, suddenly and without warning, one or more muscle(s) contract(s) in a sustained manner, and the person involved in it has no control over the muscular contraction. This is called muscle crampor true cramps. It is painful, and the concerned individual, in most of the times, will be forced to stop from whatever s/he is doing. The sustained muscular contraction could take place for a few secondsor up to a quarter of an hour.
When there is an existing injury in the musculo-skeletal system, a muscle cramp takes place because the body tends to protect the injured part. In this situation, there is a need to treat the existing injury, lest the muscle cramp keeps on recurring!
Fatigue of muscles
When a muscle or group of muscles isoverused in a physical activity, such as in a gym or outdoor physical exercises, a muscle cramp may take place. Overusing of muscles takes place when a person suddenly executes a physical exercise whose intensity and/or durationis(are) beyond what s/he used to do. If, for instance, you have been doing a treadmill exercise for only 30 minutes in a day, but suddenly you increased it to one hour, you might experience muscle cramp, either during, immediately after, or several hours after the physical exercise.
If you have been doing weightlifting, usually lifting 10 kilograms of weight, but, without proper preparation and training, you suddenly used 15-kilogram weight, you may also experience muscle cramp.
Proper positioningwhile working or playinggreatly contributes in the prevention of muscle cramps. For instance, if you are using the keyboard of a computer or a laptop, ensure that your wrists are well rested on the working table, and not left hanging beyond its edge! Ensure that your head is well rested at its back against a head support structure of your chair! Ensure that your eyesight level is in line with the computer screen, not very much lower or higher! When you play a particular sport, play it with the right form!
Improper and awkward positioning while asleep could be another cause of muscular cramp! Since you cannot really control your sleeping position, the least that you can do is to have firm and flat bed that will prevent your body from sagging!
When you work out in a gym, or engage in an outdoor sport, you will have perspiration that will release the extra heat generated in your body. However, it is not only water and heat that are released; included is the electrolyte, sodium, that plays a very vital role in maintaining the blood pressure. When significant amount of sodium is taken out from your body, arising mainly from intense physical activity and/or use of medicine, such as diuretics (medicines that promote urination), occurrence of muscle cramp is very likely.
Low blood calcium and/or magnesium
Scientific literatures have established that low calcium and/or magnesium level in the blood could cause muscle cramp. The main reason is that when the blood levels of said electrolytes are low, the excitability of the nerve endings and the muscles being supplied by that nerve is high! Hence, with the slightest provocation, the muscle contracts, producing muscle cramp.
Low calcium and magnesium levels in the blood are caused by pregnancy, vomiting, use of diuretics, vitamin D deficiency and hyperventilation (fast breathing).
Suggested further readings:
- Powertec article titled: Eleven basic rules in doing gym exercises: Importance of proper form in strength training and how Powertec machines help in reducing the risk of injury
- Powertec article titled: Causes of injury while doing physical exercises