Not warmed up properly before exercise or standing outside in the cold for too long. The muscle already starts to sting and ache. Muscle cramps are unpleasant for everyone. The sudden pain often comes quite unexpectedly. Sometimes before or after sport. Many even get it at night and then pull him or her out of sleep. Where does such a cramp come from and what can you do about it?
What are muscle cramps anyway?
A cramp is when the muscle group contracts and then "freezes".
If you touch the affected area, you feel that it is hard like stone and it hurts. This often happens to sportsmen and women. But it also happens to those who are less active. Muscles can sometimes tense up if you have hardly moved at all over a long period of time and now suddenly have to get going.
There are many types of muscle cramp
Muscle cramps are common and affect many muscle groups. In addition to typical calf cramps, feet, thighs and fingers can cramp. For example: writer's cramp. If you hold the pen between your fingers for too long and at some point they stop playing along and literally won't let go.
When we are stressed, it happens that this is reflected in the eyelid: it starts to twitch. But what is not noticed from the outside is all the more unpleasant for us. We then rub our eyes in the hope that the twitching will stop. Usually it does so again after a short time. But sometimes it can drag on for days.
If you have a permanent twitch or muscle cramps, you should seek professional advice from your doctor.
What causes cramps
Whether as an athlete or someone who does not do any sport at all: For example, a cramp occurs when the muscles are clearly overstrained or understrained. Cramps are particularly common in the calves.
Here is a short overview of what can cause cramps:
Under- or overstraining of the muscles
Whether you are a movement muffle or a sports ace: Both can trigger a cramp.
Lack of exercise leads to your muscles lacking the necessary blood circulation, which causes cramps.
During excessive exercise, the body loses fluid and important vitamins and minerals due to excessive sweating, which can cause cramps in the calves.
Age: As we get older, the muscles become stiffer due to less exercise. The tendons and muscles are no longer stretched as frequently and extensively. They eventually become harder and shorter. Many older people often drink too little. The electrolyte balance gets worse and this leads to cramps.
Changed hormone balance: During pregnancy, for example, it can happen that the vital substances are not sufficient and a lack of magnesium, calcium or sodium occurs. The body needs these minerals and vitamins above all to control the muscles. Illnesses also change the hormone balance and can cause cramps. These include: diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism or kidney failure. The fluid and mineral balance in the body is no longer properly regulated. If you are unsure or if your muscle cramps last for a long time, ask your doctor or health care professional.
Lack of sleep: If you don't get enough sleep, you know how it feels to go through everyday life more tense and irritable. Just as you feel on the inside, so do your muscles. Many people wake up at night and suffer from aching calf cramps.
Tips & Tricks for muscle cramps
If you have acute muscle cramps, a few tips and tricks can help prevent or even relieve them.
A healthy and balanced diet is always good.
Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Your body needs vital substances to ensure good blood circulation in your muscles.
Tip: Instead of boiling vegetables in water, cook them instead. When cooking, the vegetables are not put directly into hot boiling water, but cooked over the hot steam of the water, so valuable nutrients are retained. You don't even need a steamer to do this - with a steamer insert, you can do it in your normal cooking pot.
A few laps around the block, a walk in the park or a treadmill in the gym. Find the activity that you enjoy. Your muscles will be supplied with blood and it will also be good for your health in the long run.
Drink, drink and drink again.
Fluid is essential: if your body is sufficiently supplied, the ratio between your electrolyte balance and water is in balance. You can thus avoid muscle cramps.
If the cramps have gotten to you, then drinking enough will not help. Now a good massage will help.
You can do this yourself: Massage the affected area. It is best to make a warm compress and place it over the cramping area. It is important that you try to relax the cramped area. Breathe in deeply and with each exhalation imagine yourself consciously relaxing the muscle. Massaging the muscle stimulates the blood circulation and thus releases the hardening. When the pain is almost gone, place a cold compress on top of it. The blood vessels constrict and anaesthetise the remaining pain. The cramp should now disappear completely.
Important: If you want to do more sport in general, remember to stretch extensively beforehand. Do not throw yourself into cold water just like that. The sudden strain can cause the muscles to contract and cramps are then pre-programmed.
If the cramp does not want to go away, a warm relaxing bath has already helped some people.
If your muscles tense up because you are hypothermic, a bath can work wonders. Even after a long sports session, you can use it to relax your muscles and prevent sore muscles.
Our bonus tip: Mustard!
Mustard works wonders when it comes to muscle cramps. Take a little mustard flour and dissolve it in warm water. Wrap the paste around the cramping area and wait a moment. To intensify the effect of mustard, integrate mustard regularly into your diet.
Muscle cramps are unpleasant, but there are ways to prevent them or get rid of them.
Start incorporating fitness into your day. Maybe you don't like doing sports in the conventional sense - have you ever thought about dancing? It keeps body and soul together.
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Picture: istockphoto.com / comzeal