Muscle spasms and muscle cramps are very powerful pain encountered by an individual. In some cases a muscle may spasm so forcefully that it results in bruise on the skin. Most muscle spasms and cramps are involuntary contractions of a muscle. Serious muscles spasm does not release on its own and requires manual stretching to help relax and lengthen the shortened muscle. Spasms and cramps are mild and sometimes extremely painful. It can happen to any skeletal muscle but are most common in legs and feet muscles that cross two joints (for eg-the calf muscle). Cramps can involve part of a muscle or all the muscles in a group. The most commonly affected muscles groups are; back of lower leg/calf (gastrocnemius), back of thigh (hamstrings), front of thigh (quadriceps) also feet, hands, arm and abdomen.
Muscle cramps range in intensity from a slight twitch or spasm to severe pain. A cramped muscle can feel rock-hard and last a few seconds to several minutes or longer. It is not uncommon for cramps to ease up and then return several times before they go away entirely. There are some symptoms which a muscle pull person experience such as the muscle is limited in its movement and it feels hard, acute, jabbing pain especially if the pressure is applied to the affected area. Also sudden pains are felt in the affected area or they develop within the space of a few minutes.
There are various causes to which that leads to cramps and spasms in the muscle. Some of them are altered neuromuscular control, dehydration, electrolyte depletion, muscle fatigue or over using the muscle. Other factors that are associated with muscle cramps include exercising in extreme heat. Muscles cramps are more common during exercise in the heat because sweat contains fluids s well as electrolyte (salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium). When these nutrients fall to certain levels, then chances of muscles spasms increases. Also altered neuromuscular control causes cramps as it results in muscles fatigue and disrupts muscles co ordination and control.
Treating muscles cramps
Cramps are usually ignored and go away without a treatment, but these simple tips will help one to get a quick relief from muscle spasms and cramps.
- Stop the activity that caused the cramp.
- Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
- Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.
Until the exact cause of muscle cramps it is difficult to prevent them. But one can prevent the occurring of muscle cramps by following the below tips.
- Warm up before exercise
- Stretch regularly after exercise
- Improve fitness and avoid muscle fatigue
- Stretch the calf- in a standing lunge with both feet pointed forward, straighten the rear leg.
- Stretch the hamstring muscle- sit with one leg folded in and the other straight out, foot upright and toes or ankle relaxed. Lean forward slightly, touch foot of straightened leg.
- Stretch the quadriceps muscles- while standing, hold top of foot with opposite hand and gently pull heel towards buttocks.
Most muscles spasms or cramps are not serious. Only, if the cramps are severe, frequent, constant and of concern then get into the notice of doctor immediately.