What do we know about muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. They can occur in any muscle group but are most common in the legs and feet. They last for about a couple of seconds to several minutes and can be extremely painful. Some severe muscle cramps can lead to injuries which lead to muscle guarding. This is when your body tries to protect the muscle from further damage by immobilizing it.
Studies have not yet found out how muscle cramps develop, but there are some theories. One theory suggests that muscle cramps occur when the muscle is overexerted and becomes depleted of electrolytes. This can happen when you sweat excessively during exercise or in hot weather.
Muscle cramps can be divided into two categories: true cramps and pseudo-cramps. True cramps are caused by over-activity or spasms of the nerves that innervate the muscle. Pseudo-cramps, on the other hand, are caused by problems with the muscle itself, such as inflammation or injury.
You can feel true cramps by lightly palpating the muscle while it is contracting. On the other hand, pseudo-cramps do not decrease in intensity when you touch the muscle.
The first time a muscle cramp was reported was more than 100 years ago, this happened to a man who was working in a hot foundry. He described the pain as “being stabbed by a knife.” Since then, there have been many case studies and surveys conducted in an attempt to understand muscle cramps therefore the best understanding we have right now is that they are caused by a combination of things.
What are the triggering factors of muscle cramps?
There are a few things that are known to trigger muscle cramps. The most common triggers are:
Dehydration: Dehydration is a common trigger of muscle cramps. When you sweat, you lose not only water but also electrolytes like sodium and potassium. This can lead to electrolyte imbalances, which can trigger muscle cramps.
A study done on Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC) found that dehydration was the most common trigger of muscle cramps. The study found that dehydration increased the risk of developing EAMCs by nearly five times. They also said that there was not enough strong experimental evidence to support this theory.
Recently, researchers observed that the majority (95%) of muscle cramps occurred during football seasons when players exercised at high risk for heat illness due to environmental factors such as extreme temperatures or lack of hydration which makes it harder for our bodies muscles tone to get the hydration they need.
The dehydration-electrolyte imbalance theory does not fully explain EAMC in athletes exercising within a cool temperature controlled environment. For example, Maughan reported that 18% of the marathoners still developed muscle cramps even though the ambient air pressure was 10°c-12°c.
Exercise: Exercise is another common trigger of muscle cramps. This is likely because exercise can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Especially exercise in the heat can cause you to sweat a lot and lose electrolytes.
Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (EAMC): As the name suggests, EAMCs are muscle cramps that occur during or after exercise. They are most common in sports that involve repetitive motions, such as running, swimming, and cycling.
Although controversial, an important differentiation in determining the cause of EAMC may be that it occurs when contracting muscles are shortened. While this can lead to single-joint muscle pain and/or soreness for many people who experience generalized postexercise miosis (PEM), athletes often report increased symptoms up until 8 hours after exercising due to their proximity with cramps which has been named “cramp prone state”.
A study of long-distance runners found that nearly 60% of them experienced EAMCs at some point during a race. The most common location for EAMCs was the calf muscle (60%), followed by the hamstring (22%), and the quadriceps (9%).
In a study by Kantarowski, 32% of triathletes (1631 of 2438) complained about EAMC. This is not surprising considering the high percentage (67%) reporting spontaneous muscle cramps during their training sessions with 26% experiencing it after exercise or competition; furthermore, 95 percent reported having experienced at least one episode in their lifetime and 31 people said they had done so within three months before coming into contact with this research team – demonstrating how common these occurrence actually are! With this data, we can conclude that EAMC is a common condition for recreational and competitive athletes.
Pregnancy: Pregnancy is another common trigger of muscle cramps. This is likely because pregnancy can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Pregnant women are also at an increased risk for blood clots, which can cause muscle cramps.
A study of pregnant women found that nearly 50% of them experienced muscle cramps. The most common location for muscle cramps was the calf muscle (32%).
Cramps during pregnancy can be very painful and prevent you from doing your usual activities such as cooking food or going for walks. This is because the muscles in our lower limbs need more attention than those in other parts of the body, which means they’re harder to stretch out when cramped up like this!
Nighttime camps might help by giving your legs time off while we sleep so that these areas have enough blood flow during relaxation times – but currently there isn’t any treatment available yet…
Low blood sugar: Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is another common trigger of muscle cramps. This is because low blood sugar can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
A study of people with low blood sugar found that nearly 50% of them experienced muscle cramps. The most common location for muscle cramps was the calf muscle (33%), followed by the thigh (25%), and the foot (17%).
The presence of diabetes can cause nerve hyperexcitability, which leads to cramps. In type 1 vs 2 diabetes, there is also a difference in how often they experience these muscle spasms due partly because it affects nerves differently but largely depending on other factors like nephropathy or peripheral vascularization issues as well. The difference between diabetes type 1 and 2 is that diabetes type 1 has a 60% lower percentage of muscle cramps than diabetes type 2.
Medications: Medications are another common trigger of muscle cramps. This is because certain medications can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Medicines such as statins and pseudoephedrine are known to cause muscle cramping.
Statins are drugs that have been used for many years and they likely work by lowering cholesterol levels. However, it’s possible these same properties of the medication can also interfere with muscle growth or cause rhabdomyolysis. A study done in 2020 showed how statin therapy could inhibit satellite cells from performing their normal function which would interfere when you’re trying to build new muscles! Whenever we see symptoms such as weakness/cheesiness throughout our bodies then there is a good chance those issues might be due- partially at least because someone has developed problems during exercise from taking these types of medications.
Pseudoephedrine is a medication that’s used to treat colds and allergies. It’s possible that pseudoephedrine can cause muscle cramps because it’s a vasoconstrictor. This means that it narrows blood vessels, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
Tips for prevention and treatment of muscle cramps:
To prevent muscle cramps, it’s important to stay hydrated and to avoid electrolyte imbalances. This can be done by drinking plenty of fluids and by eating foods that are high in electrolytes, such as bananas and sweet potatoes.
If you are a smoker then this can also put you at greater risk for developing muscle cramps. This is because smoking can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
If you experience a muscle cramp, it’s important to stop the activity that you’re doing and rest. You can also try gently stretching the muscle that’s cramping. If the cramp is severe, you can try massaging the muscle that can lead to an itching feeling.
A good way to rest your muscles is by taking a break from your current activity and sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. You can also try applying ice to the area that’s cramping or take a shower, or sit in a hot tub to reduce the soreness afterward.
Treatment for muscle cramps will vary depending on the underlying cause. In most cases, however, simple home remedies such as rest, hydration, and stretching can help to relieve muscle cramps.
Are there long-term effects associated with muscle cramps?
Most of the time muscle cramps are harmless and will resolve on their own with rest and hydration. However, if you keep continuing exercising with muscle cramps this might do damage to the muscle tissue and can eventually lead to an injury.
In some cases, muscle cramps can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, or diabetes. If you experience severe recurring muscle cramps, it’s important to see a doctor to rule out any serious medical conditions.
Conclusion on reasons your muscle cramps
Overall, muscle cramps can be caused by a variety of things such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, diabetes, medications, and pregnancy. In most cases, muscle cramps are harmless and will resolve on their own but it’s important to see a doctor if you experience severe or recurring muscle cramps. There are also some things you can do to prevent muscle cramps such as staying hydrated, eating foods high in electrolytes, and avoiding smoking. If you do experience a muscle cramp, try resting, stretching, or massaging the muscle that’s cramping.