Just about everyone has suffered a muscle cramp at one point or another.  It’s one of the most common types of injuries or pain you can experience. However, how do they happen, and when you get one, what’s the best way of minimizing its impact?  Fair questions for both.

Here are the answers:

In simplest terms, a muscle cramp is a strong tightening or contraction of the muscle in question.  They tend to have a sudden onset, and can last anywhere from just a few seconds to several minutes.

Surprisingly, science doesn’t offer any firm answers on the exact causes of muscle cramps, although we know of a number of things that can certainly lead to them.  Among them are:

  • A potassium, magnesium, iron, or calcium deficiency in your blood
  • Dehydration
  • Standing on a hard, unyielding surface for an extended period of time
  • Exposure to extremes in temperature in either direction, but especially exposure to cold

In addition to those things, perhaps the leading cause of muscle cramps is simple over-use.  Exercising for too long or too intensely can certainly lead to cramping.  Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to alleviate the pain.  These include:

  • Walking it off – It may sound almost cliche, but if you’re suffering a leg cramp, walking does help to stretch it out.
  • Perform a gentle stretching routine – if you’re not in a position where you can walk, then gentle persistent stretching will certainly help, and is a perfectly viable alternative
  • Massage – another great option is massage, which you can, in most cases, easily do yourself
  • Alternate ice and heat – Ice alone is moderately effective. Heat alone is moderately effective, but for best results, use both in an alternating pattern of about fifteen minutes each.

Of course, if your pain persists, then it could be a symptom of a deeper problem, in which case, you should make an appointment with your chiropractor or physician at your next available opportunity.