Almost everyone has experienced them at some stage: unpleasant cramps in muscles and calves. But what causes them and how can they be prevented and treated?
What causes muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps can occur quite unexpectedly: while you are sleeping, when you are exercising or after extreme physical effort. They can be caused by dehydration, overexertion or awkward sleeping positions. A magnesium deficiency can sometimes also act as a trigger. The most frequent type of cramp is a cramp in the calf, but other parts of the body can also be affected. Cramps occur when a muscle, part of a muscle or an entire muscle group inadvertently tenses up. As a result, the muscle contracts without relaxing again, thus causing pain.
Muscle cramps – prevention and treatment
If you are already experiencing pain, gentle kneading and stretching will provide relief within minutes. This elongates the muscle, relieving the cramp. Tensing up the antagonist, or opposing, muscle can also help. Cramps are not always innocuous: thrombosis, neurological disorders, metabolic disorders and undue weight on joints can also cause cramps. It is advisable to consult a doctor in the case of frequent muscle cramps or severe pain.
The following tips have been proven many times over to help prevent muscle cramps:
- Eat a magnesium-rich diet – bananas, nuts, whole grain bread, rolled oats, dairy products, beans, lentils, dried figs, berries, spinach, fish and poultry are all good sources of magnesium.
- Drink enough mineral water, especially when exercising.
- Avoid substances and situations that deplete magnesium: stress, caffeine, alcohol, laxatives and antibiotics can all lead to magnesium deficiency. Increased quantities of magnesium are also required during pregnancy.
- Bear in mind the four golden rules: bend, exercise, massage, spray (using the showerhead on the affected area). Alternating baths, massages, foot and leg exercises not only feel good, they also help to prevent muscle cramps.
Your Dole Team