A muscle cramp is an involuntary spasm or contraction that is usually accompanied by pain. They are often associated with exercise, but sometimes they just happen. Some can be prevented, and all will typically go away with stretching and time. However, in the case of severe pain, it may become necessary to see a doctor and get treated for the underlying cause.
Muscle cramps often occur in the legs. The hamstring, calf, and thigh are common locations for a sudden pain, but the hands and feet aren’t exempt. A hand might suddenly spasm after a long period of writing, or a charley horse might crop up on an easy jog. These occurrences are common, and sometimes they just happen. Other times, however, there is a reason for the involuntary contraction. Common causes included working out without a warmup, neglecting proper stretching, depletion of electrolytes, or the body becoming dehydrated. Certain medications may also make some people more prone to muscle spasms. Additionally, both poor circulation and being calcium-deficient both increase the likelihood of painful contractions.
While a charley horse won’t last forever, prevention is best. Most people learn quickly when it comes to what types of movements or exercises are most likely to lead to cramping, so avoid any activity that tightens the hamstrings or thighs beyond comfort. Don’t jump into strenuous exercise without a warmup, and be equally sure to cool down properly. Be cautious of getting dehydrated. In addition to replacing water lost through sweating, consider using a sports drink to replace depleted electrolytes as well, especially during endurance sports. Even though the discomfort isn’t permanent, taking time to work toward prevention is best to skip the unpleasantness altogether.
When it comes to exercise, measures like stretching and not getting started without warming up can help to fend off the worst muscle contractions. However, sometimes they just happen. In these cases, they will typically go away with a simple treatment of rest and alternating heat and ice. A massage may be helpful. If the involuntary spasms are frequent, severe, and seemingly without cause, see a doctor. There may be underlying conditions that need to get treated for full relief.
Most people are no strangers to the occasional charley horse or knot of tension in the calf. When faced with this discomfort, it’s easy to learn quickly what causes it, how to avoid it, and how best to treat it at home. They typically go away easily, but a few simple steps toward prevention is best.