Ahh, muscle cramps.  We’ve all experienced them at one point or another, but what causes them?  In this piece, we’ll take a closer look at that very question! In simplest form, a muscle cramp is nothing more than an involuntary contraction of one of the muscles in your body.

They’re generally harmless, although when they’re happening, it certainly might not feel like it! Some of the more painful cramps are called Charlie horses. In fact, when a muscle cramp strikes, it may stop you in your tracks or leave you hopping around your house muttering a string of colorful language as you try to massage the pain away or “walk it off.”

Over-use of one or more of your muscles is the primary cause of muscle cramps.  If you exercise too strenuously or hold the same position for an extended period, the strain on the muscle group in question can easily cause a muscle cramp.

Other common causes of muscle cramps include:

  • Mineral Depletion – Specifically, if your body is deficient in magnesium, calcium or potassium, it makes you much more likely to suffer from muscle cramps. If you take certain medications you may be more prone to this as they can deplete these minerals from your body. Another cause may be an iron deficiency. This can cause muscle cramps, headaches, restless legs, and much more.  Here, simple changes to your diet or taking nutritional supplements can help. Ask your doctor to test your blood for deficiencies.
  • Nerve Compression – If nerves in your spine become compressed, it can lead to cramping pains in your legs that typically worsen the longer you move about. In this case, a visit to your local chiropractor can help. If you can’t get to your chiropractor’s office right away, walking in a slightly flexed position as though you were pushing a shopping cart can help mitigate your pain until you can get an appointment.
  • Insufficient Blood Flow – If the arteries in your legs have narrowed (a condition called arteriosclerosis) it can produce cramping when you walk and especially when you’re working out. Fortunately, cramping caused by this condition tends to ease up not long after you stop exercising.

Again, in most cases, muscle cramps are nothing to get alarmed about, unless they become so severe that they prevent you from performing your normal daily activities.  If things start moving in that direction, you should make an appointment with your doctor and you chiropractor right away.