10 Best Ways to Deal with Muscle Cramp

Muscle cramps can be described as a mild twitches, painful, cramp typically caused by an intense pain in the muscle. Cramps can be a real nightmare, especially when they wake you at night. It seems no one’s completely safe from muscle cramps, which commonly attack the calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, arms, and abs.

Muscle cramps happen when a muscle involuntarily contracts on its own. Usually, you feel a hard lump at the point of pain -- that’s the contracted muscle. Muscle cramps may occur during exercise, at rest, or at night, depending upon the exact cause.

Cramps usually occur for a reason. If you haven’t strained a muscle, you’re probably cramping because you’re muscle is fatigued or overused, because your body is dehydrated, or because you’re not getting enough electrolytes, such as potassium or magnesium. Those minerals help your muscles work more smoothly, and fluids help your body process the minerals. 

Meanwhile, there are several remedies you can try yourself when muscle cramps strike:
  • Find the epicenter of the muscle cramp. Press into this spot with your thumb, the heel of your hand or a loosely clenched fist. Hold the pressure for 10 seconds, then press again. You’re doing it right if you feel some discomfort, but not excruciating pain. After a number of repetitions, the pain from the cramp should start to diminish.
  • Relax the cramping muscle. Stop any activity that may have induced the cramp and lightly stretch the muscle, gently holding the stretch. You may even massage the muscle while or after you stretch.
  • Place an electric heating pad or a hot washcloth on the misbehaving muscle to relax the cramp and increase blood flow to the affected tissue. Set the pad on low, apply for 20 minutes, then remove it for at least 20 minutes before reapplying. You can do the same using an ice pack applied to swollen or painful areas several times per day.
  • If you are experiencing leg cramps, the best thing that you can do is walk on the affected leg. This will send the signal that your muscle needs to contract and then relax. Think of it as hitting the reset button on the muscle.
  • Mix 1 part wintergreen oil with 4 parts vegetable oil, and massage it into the muscle cramp. Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate, which relieves pain and stimulates blood flow. You can use this mixture several times a day, but not with a heating pad -- you could burn your skin.
  • Take a long, warm shower, or soak in the bath. For added relief, pour in a half-cup of Epsom salt. The magnesium in Epsom salt promotes muscle relaxation.
  • Many experts suggest dehydration is a leading cause of muscle cramps. So if you’re getting frequent cramps, drink more water.
  • Low levels of minerals known as electrolytes -- which include potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium -- can contribute to muscle cramps. So down some electrolytes to get your fill.
  • Some studies suggest getting enough vitamins and minerals -- including vitamin B, D, E, magnesium, and zinc -- may help ward off the attack of a muscle cramp (or at least help ease the pain).
  • To prevent nighttime calf cramps, try not to sleep with your toes pointed. And don’t tuck in your sheets too tightly-this tends to bend your toes downward, activating cramps.
Muscle cramps can often be prevented by measures such as adequate nutrition and hydration, attention to safety when exercising, and attention to ergonomic factors. If you regularly have leg cramps that are not related to a more serious condition, you might try adding more magnesium to your diet. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of magnesium.

photo: mountcastleveincenters.com

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