Muscle cramps can affect any muscle in the body, however, typically affects the muscles in the calves and feet. Cramps are characterised by a sudden, involuntary, painful spasm or tightening of a muscle. Cramps can last for varying amounts of time and generally will resolve themselves after a few moments. More severe cramps may require medical attention.
The exact cause of cramps is unknown. Cramps are thought to be a result of an imbalance of the minerals (electrolytes) involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium. Imbalances may occur due to a dietary inadequacy or during fluid losses brought about during vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and excessive sweating. Diuretic medications may also interfere with the balance of electrolytes. Cramping may also be a result of muscle injury or fatigue, poor muscle tone, poor physical health or wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods of time.
There are number of methods that can help in preventing cramps. One step is stretching before and after exercise. This can be incorporated in the warm-up and cool down before and after exercise. It is also important to maintain adequate fluid intake, making sure to drink additional water before, during and after exercise sessions. If you’re prone to excessive sweating or train for extended periods in hot temperatures, an electrolyte replacement drink may be appropriate to rehydrate the body quickly and replace lost minerals in sweat. Electrolyte replacement formulas include Isowhey Sports Electrolyte Formula Powder and Hydralyte Liquid.
Avoiding wearing shoes that do not fit comfortably or high-heeled shoes can also help in preventing cramps. If you do experience a cramp, however, lengthening the muscle by gently stretching it and rubbing or massaging the affected muscle can help. It may also be necessary to apply an ice pack.
There are a number of natural therapies available to help assist in cramping. Magnesium helps all the muscles of the body function optimally and contract normally. A magnesium supplement may help prevent muscular cramps and spasms. Magnesium supplements include Bioglan Active Magnesium and Lifestream Natural Magnesium. For best results, it is recommended that magnesium be taken in an easily absorbed powder form such as Blackmores Magnesium Powder. It can be taken with other nutrients that are involved in the maintenance and repair of muscle tissue, such as folic acid, vitamin c and vitamin b12.
Always seek advice from a healthcare professional. Cramps may be indicative of an underlying disease in some cases. Consult your healthcare professional if you experience cramps frequently, if your symptoms are severe or take longer than a few minutes to disappear.