Muscle Cramps: What Causes Them, How to Avoid Them

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Cavemen workouts are designed to consistently push your body quite hard, so it is extra important that you know how to avoid cramping up.

At one time or another, everyone has experienced the discomfort of muscle cramps. During a cramp, your muscle contracts involuntarily and causes a tightening sensation, which can be painful and even debilitating.

Although cramps are often limited to one particular area of the body, such as the calf or foot, they can also affect several muscle groups simultaneously. When cramping occurs, the affected muscles are temporarily paralyzed and rendered powerless.

Common Causes

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that overexertion depletes the body’s oxygen supply and leads to a build-up of waste products in the muscles. Under such circumstances, a cramp may occur soon after exercise or even at night during rest. The cramping can last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes.

Straining a muscle can also cause muscle cramps, as can compression of the nerves in your spine or an inadequate blood supply during exercise. Also, sensitivity to temperature may lead to abdominal cramps, including stomach muscle spasms or intestinal cramping.

A variety of nutritional factors can increase the likelihood of developing muscle cramps, too. Dehydration, for example, can cause a nasty charley horse to occur while working out.

According to the Mayo Clinic, depletion of such minerals as calcium, potassium and magnesium can lead to muscle cramps as well.

Prevention and Treatment

To prevent muscle cramps, it is important to drink plenty of fluids during exercise. Sports drinks that contain electrolytes can be used to replace minerals lost during perspiration. Drink plenty of liquids not only during workout sessions, but before and after exercise as well.

Stretching is another way to help prevent muscle cramps. Plan to stretch the muscles you will use during exercise for five minutes before and after your workout.

If you do get muscle cramps, stretch and massage the muscles to help relieve the tightness and constriction. Gentle compression can reduce the amount of time you experience the tightening sensation.

Ice and cold therapies can also be helpful. Wrap an ice pack in a towel and place the pack directly on the affected area. Leave it on for five minutes to relax the muscles. Soaking in a warm bath is another way to relieve discomfort from cramps, helping the muscles to loosen up and relax.

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