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Muscle Cramping

Muscle Cramping

A bad muscle cramp can inconveniently cut an otherwise productive workout session short. Severe resting cramps can even wake people from sleep. Skeletal muscle spasms are incredibly common in athletes. The most common areas to have muscle cramps are in the legs, feet, neck and back. Although these involuntary contractions of muscle are generally harmless, they can be incredibly painful. Understanding why muscles cramps occur is the first step in preventing and treating them. Dehydration, overuse, and muscle strain all contribute to painful cramps.

Pre-Workout Tips

Dehydrated muscles are especially prone to cramping. Even if a person isn’t thirsty, he or she should definitely get hydrated before a workout. This will help to reduce the possibility of painful muscle contractions. Athletic drinks that have electrolytes are also a good choice before a workout. Too much sugar may be problematic though. Many people recommend cutting electrolyte drinks with water in equal parts. Stretching and warming up properly can help to reduce the possibility of cramps too. Cold muscles can cramp up easily.

Dietary Considerations

A lack of potassium, calcium or magnesium can also contribute to involuntary muscle contractions. Many people have reported a reduction in painful cramping after adding bananas to their regular diets. Eating a healthy diet doesn’t guarantee absorption of vitamins and minerals though. Certain medications can interfere with absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. Potassium, calcium and magnesium can all be depleted by diuretics and some over-the-counter and prescription medications. It’s important to consult with a doctor when starting a new medication for potential side effects.

Real Time Dealing With Cramps

Prevention is certainly the most important element when dealing with cramps, but what happens when a cramp occurs during or after a strenuous workout? The pain is likely going to limit the movement and range of motion of the effected limb immediately. The person may even double over in pain. The cramped up muscle group area or limb should be quickly placed in a rest position. Sometimes, this may force a person to get down on the ground. The area can be lightly massaged. Analgesic balms can be applied to particularly painful cramps. After the cramp has passed, it helps to lightly stretch the muscle group or limb. Ultimately, the most important part of reducing muscle cramps is eating a well balanced diet. Equally important, a person should be well hydrated and warmed up prior to any strenuous workouts. 

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