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Muscle cramps

 

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Why do muscle cramps occur?

 A muscle cramp is a very common, painful occurrence resulting from a sudden, involuntary contraction of one or more muscles, most often in the legs, but sometimes in the feet, arms, hands and abdomen. A muscle cramps is felt as a temporary sharp muscle pain, which can last from a few seconds to several minutes (15 or more) and usually disappears on its own, although sometimes it can recur multiple times before completely disappearing.

 Muscle cramps can be caused by a variety of factors, although the exact cause is not always determinable. They are a common occurrence in endurance athletes, due to muscle overuse or strain, dehydration and mineral depletion, which are well-known factors that play a significant role in the development of muscle cramps. Other times muscle cramps develop during physical activity due to an inadequate blood supply to the legs, usually resulting from a narrowing of the leg arteries (leg atherosclerosis). However muscle cramps donít occur only during exercise, but are also very common while at rest and even at night during sleeping (night muscle cramps). In these cases muscle cramps usually result from nerve compression or damage, certain mineral deficiencies such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, or they are the sign of an underlying condition, such as anaemia, diabetes, chronic low blood sugar and thyroid disorders.

 Fortunately most muscle cramps are not serious and usually can be effectively managed by simply taking self-care measures. However, when muscle cramps are particularly severe or recurrent, it is advisable to see the doctor who can help the patient treat the underlying condition (where determinable), and prevent muscle cramps from occurring through an appropriate muscle relaxant drug therapy.

 The most effective self-care measure for stopping muscle cramps is by stretching, gently massaging and applying cold packs to the affected, tense muscles, in order to help them relax. If muscles remain sore after the cramp has gone away, it may be helpful to take a warm bath or apply a warm towel on the affected area.

Muscle cramps and dehydration

 Some muscle cramps can be prevented from occurring by simply avoiding dehydration and mineral depletion during physical activity, as well as gently stretching the muscles before and after exercising or, when cramps occur at night, before going to bed. Of course, when muscle cramps are the result of a treatable underlying condition such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, anemia or mineral deficiencies, muscle cramp treatment and prevention also include the correction of the specific underlying condition (by taking the appropriate prescribed medicines and the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes).

 Most muscle cramps usually donít require medical care and can be effectively managed by simply taking self-care measures. However, they can be sometimes associated with more serious underlying disorders which, on the contrary, need medical attention and sometimes require a long-term therapy, whose costs may be covered by an appropriate international health insurance plan.



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*Always seek professional medical advise from a qualified doctor before undergoing any treatment.



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