Have you ever experienced the unexpected spasm of a cramp − that painful, involuntary contraction that you panic to get rid of?
Muscle cramps are common. Night-time calf cramps afflict approximately one-third of Australian adults. Many of us have seen sportspeople fall to the ground with cramp, unable to continue competition.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MUSCLE CRAMP?
Your skeletal muscles − those that move your body − are made of bundles of fibres. When we tighten a muscle consciously, our muscle fibres contract − think about when you flex your bicep and a muscular bulge shows on your upper arm. Sometimes, though, a muscle will contract without conscious thought. It’s like it has a mind of its own, and when it does so vigorously, as happens with cramp, it’s painful. Symptoms include sudden pain that lasts from several seconds to a number of minutes. Stiffness, muscle bulging or an obvious muscle knot might be felt. The area can remain sore for several days. Once cramp has occurred, you’re more likely to experience further cramping within the next eight hours.
WHY DO THEY HAPPEN?
Unfortunately, it’s a question without an easy answer. The most common type of cramp is known as idiopathic. In short, it happens spontaneously and we don’t know why. There are some conditions or scenarios that may make cramp more likely: ageing, muscle fatigue, athletic exertion, dehydration, pregnancy, and certain illnesses and diseases.
DEALING WITH MUSCLE CRAMPS
The best immediate action you can take is to lightly stretch the affected muscle. There are some steps that may aid in prevention; such as massage, regular stretching, and having plenty of fluids. Correcting poor posture can also help. Some people report that they feel relief through supplementing with magnesium, though the research on this is not conclusive. Cramp can negatively impact your quality of life. If you experience these intense spasms regularly, or would like to know more, speak to your chiropractor.