- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Painful Muscle Cramps: Can It Be A Health Risk?
What Is Muscle Cramp?
A muscle cramp is an uncontrollable and painful muscle spasm. When it attacks, you can feel a large lump in the affected muscles because the muscles tighten uncontrollably and there is very little you can do to prevent it from happening. Together with the large lump in the affected muscles, pain immediately starts. They can cause excruciating pain to the affected area.
Which Body Parts Are Most Commonly Affected
The most commonly involved muscles that get muscle cramps are the calves. By far, it is the most prone body part that gets chronic muscle cramps. Other parts of the body may also be affected by muscle cramps but the frequency of their attacks are not as often.
What Causes Muscles Cramps
- Excessive physical activity or excessive exercise
- Excessive physical labor or physical stress
- Poor physical condition
- Poor nutritional intake
- An extreme weather condition; a weather that is either extremely cold or extremely hot
- Muscles that have been subjected to extreme condition
- Overused muscles
- Muscle injury
- Dehydration or electrolyte disturbance (excessive perspiration, diarrhea,
- Mineral depletion (low levels of potassium and
low levels of other minerals in the body such as magnesium and calcium)
- Muscle strain and fatigued muscles
- Reduced blood flow through the muscles
- Prolonged sitting or lying down
- Poor flexibility or tight muscles
- Poor blood circulation
- Nerve problems
- Narrowing of the arteries that block blood supply that decreases blood circulation in the body
- Pregnancy (calcium deficiency during pregnancy)
- Certain medications (side effects of some medication)
Should It Be A Cause For Health Concern?
Muscle cramps are generally harmless and are not a cause for health concern. A ‘once in a while’ occurrence is not a health risk. It is painful and there is nothing much that can be done during its attack but a person can be rest assured that it is not going to be a cause for unnecessary illness in the future. It should be a cause for concern though when it becomes chronic and more and more muscles are being affected.
When Does It Become A Health Risk?
Muscle cramps are usually benign and the body may just be stressed out for the moment. However, there are a few medical conditions where a person can develop chronic muscle cramps. Nerve problems, kidney problems, diabetes, anemia, thyroid problems, restless leg syndrome, varicose veins, and muscle fatigue are few conditions where a person may experience chronic muscle cramps. People who have metabolic problems or are using certain medications may also experience them. It can also be a symptom of an underlying disease such as atherosclerosis or narrowing of the arteries.
Can Muscle Cramps Be Prevented?
Muscle cramps start and stop on their own but there are a few steps you can do to decrease its severity and duration. During cramping, (1) putting the leg on a sitting position, perpendicular to the floor, can help lessen its duration. Evidently, a lying down position will increase its duration. (2) Then putting your hands against the cramps and putting pressure on it until it stops can help stop cramping if it’s successful. Otherwise, it can at least help reduce its duration. It can only be done if the cramps occur in the calf muscles. After cramping, gently stretch the affected muscles to help decrease the pain overtime.
Muscle cramps are mainly caused by mineral depletion such as lack of potassium and/or other minerals. Eating an adequate amount of fruits that are rich in potassium and other minerals can help lessen its occurrence. Taking vitamin B complex can also help lessen its occurrence.
Increase your level of cardiovascular exercise. It helps with blood circulation in the muscles thus giving your muscles more oxygen for it to breathe. Improving your cardiovascular health will improve your overall muscles. Stretching can help reduce muscle cramps. Simply stretching your muscles should help decrease your chances of muscle cramping. Ensuring you get an adequate amount of water a day will help reduce cramping. Ensuring you get a nutritionally adequate diet and getting a regular massage can help.