We’ve all been there. You’re enjoying a run or pushing out some reps at the gym and all of a sudden cramp sets in.
The sharp and sudden pain can feel like agony and is sure to put an end to any exercise you are doing for a while.
But what is the reason for the pain? And how can you go about stopping it?
Let’s take a look.
What is a Muscle Cramp?
In a nutshell, a muscle cramp is a contraction of the muscle that isn’t voluntary. It is a muscle spasm that cannot be controlled.
Muscle cramps are relatively common in everyone from professional athletes to gym first-timers.
The muscles most affected by cramps are often in the leg, notably the calf which one study found to be the source of around 80% of cramps.
Most of us have experienced cramps at some time in our lives. The muscle pain varies in length and severity, ranging from a short and minor pain to a long and intense one.
So what causes our muscles to do this?
Let’s find out.
What Causes Cramp?
When looking at the cause of cramps, there are a number of different theories. The real answer is probably that there are a lot of factors that contribute, including:
- Muscle fatigue – If you enjoy a run, but after a couple of miles your legs feel like they can’t go any further, then you are experiencing muscle fatigue. This is also felt when pushing weights and reaching the point when your arms feel numb and unable to push one more rep out. Basically, your muscles are worn out, and this makes them very vulnerable to cramps.
- Lack of electrolytes – Minerals and nutrients such as sodium, calcium and potassium are all important to keep our body going. If you aren’t taking in enough of these and there is an imbalance, your muscles will not contract as well and will often cramp. If you are suffering from many cramps, try eating and drinking more electrolytes and see if the situation improves.
- Dehydration – Cramps are common in hot and humid conditions. This is because when exercising, and sweating, your body is losing vast levels of fluids that need to be topped up. Having plenty of water in your system is vital to maintaining a strong blood flow. Without sufficient blood reaching your muscles, you are heading for cramps.
- Poor Condition – Blood circulation is also linked to the condition of your body. The more exercise you can do and the healthier the food you eat are all factors in promoting a healthy blood flow to your muscles that will make them stronger when exercising and less vulnerable to cramps.
- Altered workouts – All muscles have a limit. It is important to know when you reach yours or you risk overworking yourself. If you want to lengthen your run or increase the weight you are lifting, you must make sure you are doing so gradually or else you risk pushing your muscles too far and this may lead to cramps.
These are common reasons that your muscles cramp when exercising which you can control, but there may be reasons out of your control, such as illnesses and other factors like age. Liver disease, thyroid issues, pregnancy and circulation problems are all reasons that you may face regular cramps.
If you experience cramps more often than usual, and they are beginning to feel severe, it is recommended to pay a visit to your doctor, who may be able to diagnose why this problem is occurring.
For most people though, cramp is down to poor conditioning, bad preparation, muscle fatigue, and in some cases just pure bad luck. However you got it, cramp is always a sure-fire to quickly put an end to a workout.
But there are ways to minimise cramping issues, and you can start doing them right now.
How to Stop Your Muscles from Cramping?
No-one wants a muscle cramp, so by preparing yourself properly before exercise and ensuring your body is in the right condition for the strain it is about to be under, you can minimise the risk of this happening.
Regular exercise is a great place to start, as it will have a great effect on your blood circulation and muscle recovery, meaning you won’t suffer from fatigue and overworking as much.
Before any workout, stretching can loosen up the muscles and prepare them for what is about to come. If you can stretch out your muscles before a strain, they will have much more flexibility and won’t be as tight, meaning less risk of cramps.
It is important to be well hydrated throughout exercise and to maintain a healthy diet that is rich in the nutrients and minerals that benefit your muscles to keep them strong and ready for every challenge you throw their way.
Now, this isn’t to say you won’t get a cramp even if you stick to all the advice above.
Luckily, there are ways you can soothe the pain and quicken the time it takes for the muscle to heal.
What to do When You Have Cramp
Alleviating the pain of cramp is something that doesn’t need medicine or dedicated healthcare. It can be done by yourself, or even better, with a little help from a friend.
The first thing to do is stretch the muscle. If you watch any football match, you may see a player suffer from a cramp, and a teammate help them by pushing down on their foot as they lie down. This is a calf stretching exercise that can quickly minimise the duration and pain of the cramp.
You can also massage the muscle to stretch it out and stop it from contracting as severely.
Another method is to heat the muscle. This can be done by wrapping a warm towel around the pain or taking a warm bath.
Cramp is painful, and it can happen at any time, but knowing what you do when it does occur can be a big help in getting over the pain and getting your muscles back to normal as quickly as possible.
When muscles cramp, it can put an end to your workout and leave you in some distress.
The reason for the cramp? Well, there are many different things it could be. But this doesn’t mean it can’t be prevented.
Knowing the factors that can cause cramp means you can prepare your body to be stronger against them and could be the difference between a painful end to exercise, and a long and fulfilling one.
Want to know more about how you can condition your body? Contact us today and see how The Cut Gym can help you.