How to treat muscle cramps
Muscles cramps are common, but they are treated easily.
Muscle cramps cannot be stopped instantly with injections or pills, but some methods can be useful to relieve them which include
- Gently stretching the affected muscle
- Massaging the sole of your legs
- Applying ice or heat to the affected area
- Using a heating pad
- Trying to walk
- Grabbing your toes and pulling them toward you
Which types of medicines treat muscle cramps?
Medicines that relieve muscle cramps are known as muscle relaxants. Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine), Norflex (orphenadrine) and Lioresal (baclofen) are some of the most commonly used muscle relaxants. Recently, Botox (botulism toxin) injections have been used successfully for muscle cramps.
What is a muscle cramp?
A muscle cramp is uncontrolled and forcible tightening of the muscles that fail to relax, which causes pain. It usually affects the calf or foot and may last for several seconds to minutes. Muscle cramps affect approximately 50% to 60% of adults and 7% of children. The prevalence of muscle cramps increases with age and older women are more susceptible to leg cramps.
What types of stretches help prevent leg cramps?
Trying the following stretch may help prevent leg cramps in your calves. Stand about 1 m away from a wall. Bend forward. Touch the wall with your arms stretched out while keeping your feet flat. Perform this exercise three times a day for five minutes for effective results.
What are the different types of muscle cramps?
The different types of muscle cramps are as follows
- True cramps: These are caused due to hyperactivity of the nerve that stimulates the muscles.
- Tetany cramps: They are caused due to the activation of all the nerves in the body causing cramps throughout the body.
- Contracture cramps: These are due to scarring of the soft tissues affecting muscle movements.
- Dystonic cramps: These are caused due to the stimulation of muscles that are not necessary for the intended movement.
What causes muscle cramps?
Usually, there is no cause for muscle cramps. That is, they are idiopathic; however, some cases of muscle cramps may be symptoms or complications of a more serious health condition (secondary). Idiopathic causes of muscle cramps include
Secondary causes of muscle cramps include
- Prolonged sitting
- Overuse of muscles
- Improper seating position
- Living or working on concrete floors
- Spine disorders causing pressure on the nerves
- Flat feet
- Hypermobile joints
- Parkinson’s disease
- Myopathies (muscle weakness due to dysfunction of the muscle fiber)
- Excessive fluid loss
- Hypoglycemia (decreased blood sugar level)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Hypokalemia (low potassium levels in the blood)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (progressive neuromuscular disease)
Certain medications may also lead to muscle cramps as a side effect.
What are the symptoms of muscle cramps?
The symptoms of muscle cramps are as follows
- Local pain
- Inflexibility of the involved muscle
- Difficulty walking
- Twitching under the skin
How do you prevent muscle cramps?
A few timely measures can prevent muscle cramps, which include
- Drinking six to eight glasses of water every day
- Sleeping with legs elevated and using pillows to keep your legs elevated
- Stretching your leg muscles gently before going to sleep
- Performing exercises to strengthen your leg muscles
- Wearing proper-fitting shoes to support your feet
- Stretching your legs before and after exercise
- Walking on a treadmill or riding a bicycle for a few minutes
- Taking a warm bath