When your muscle suddenly becomes hard and tight or you feel a quick sharp pain in the calf, a muscle cramp has struck. It can happen while in motion when out for a run or even during a night’s sleep. This type of involuntary contraction is a spasm we would rather forgo. Without warning, the onset of a “Charley horse” (cramp that occurs in the calf area), is marked by temporary pain that we want instant relief from. Cramps are never fun to endure, and one just has to breathe through it, stretch, and massage out the area until alleviation kicks in.
There are a number of triggers that can cause muscle cramps. In order to avoid future spasms, knowing the causes becomes important. A cramp can be the result of poor blood circulation. Exercise related stress can bring on a cramp. Being dehydrated or deficient in magnesium and/or potassium, can be causes. Hot temperature is also a culprit, especially when being active. Not stretching enough can also lead to cramping. There are also medications that can lead to cramping. These include diuretics, certain Alzheimer’s medications, statin medications for cholesterol, as well as some osteoporosis and high blood pressure medications. Nerve compression can also cause a pinch that produces a cramp. Muscle mass lessens with age so what muscle is working may be more stressed than normal and overworked much more easily which can cause cramping. Muscle cramps are common during pregnancy as the body is undergoing a lot of changes. Certain medical conditions like diabetes, liver, or thyroid disorder can also heighten the risks of cramping.
Prevention includes staying hydrated, properly stretching, and making sure to eat healthy foods with nutrients. These include vitamins, minerals, potassium, and calcium. Potassium is found in many choices including vegetables, bananas, berries, potatoes, melon, citrus, meat, fish, and milk. Caffeine found in coffee, soda, and other beverages does affect fluid hydration in the body so be sure to replenish with water. Exercise and activity that lasts over 60 minutes can lead to glycogen depletion which can lead to fatigue which can lead to cramps.
Although only a temporary sensation and typically harmless, an unexpected bout of pain never feels good. It is important to seek a doctor’s help if these cramps are reoccurring or persistent. A nutrient imbalance may not be readily noticeable. Finding the cause can help avoid future incidences. Muscle cramps happen to almost everyone, few and far in between, but when they strike, they aren’t forgotten. The healthy folks of Bonsall and Fallbrook know that less is more when it comes to “Charley horses”.