At one time or another, we have all gotten that muscle cramp in the middle of the night that can be the most annoying pain ever. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why we get them but there are things that we can do to help them.

Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions of muscle and can occur in multiple muscles. They are commonly called a Charley horse or a muscle spasm. You can get a muscle cramp any time and in any muscle but most commonly, they occur in the calf or lower leg.

What causes a muscle cramp?

Muscle cramps can be caused by a variety of things including dehydration, insufficient warm-up and stretching, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue or overexercising and a variety of other things. Cramps are most commonly seen after a vigorous workout, sitting too long in an awkward position like a long flight or trauma to the muscle. Medications can also cause muscle cramps as a common side effect.

How to prevent muscle cramps

Stretch/warm-up: Once a cramp is present, movement is the best medicine. Walking, wiggling the leg or pumping the ankles/feet helps to alleviate the pain and stretch the muscle.

Drink water. Staying hydrated is super important when dealing with muscle cramps. If you are not well hydrated, the lactic acid that is produced with exercising and movement builds up and can cause more acute muscle cramps.

Eat vitamin/mineral rich foods with K, Ca and Mg: Potassium, calcium and magnesium are all responsible for helping with muscle contraction. Foods like bananas, nuts and dark leafy vegetables all help to provide those much-needed vitamins and minerals.  Supplements can be taken if needed when eating the appropriate foods cannot be done.

Get a massage. Massage is great for muscle cramps to help alleviate pain and cramping by helping to increase blood flow and nutrition to the cramped muscle.

Use ice. A cold compress can help when the muscle cramp is due to acute injury or is more of a side effect from a chronic, more serious issue like restless leg syndrome.

Take a warm bath/heat. Heat may also be appropriate for chronic muscle cramps that seem to occur more than a few times a week. A good soak in a bath with some bath salts can help ease stiff and sore muscles that may be at a higher likelihood of experiencing a  muscle cramp.

As a general advisory, if the muscle cramps occur more than a few times a week or last more than 10 minutes, contact your healthcare provider for more medical advice.

Muscle cramps can be a pain in the horse’s…. but they can be helped and prevented with the tips we have given you today.  So get out there and have some fun.  The doctors at Fletcher Chiropractic in Lincoln, Ne are very knowledgeable on all things muscle and joint related, including nutrition and exercise advice. Just remember that if the pain is lingering around, seek care from a healthcare or medical professional.