Is there anything more uncomfortable than a poorly-timed muscle cramp? A leg cramp when you’re in bed, or a foot cramp during a workout – these can completely stop you in your tracks! It may feel as if they come out of nowhere, but there are things that can be done to ease the pain of cramps and ways to build up your muscles to prevent future muscles cramps from happening.
What causes muscle cramps?
It’s important to know what causes cramps, to be able to ease them. Cramps can be caused by dehydration and/or overuse or underuse of the muscle – this is why they occur so often during sports, but also sometimes happen when you’ve been sat still – you can’t win. The immediate way to relieve a muscle cramp is to stretch the affected muscle while massaging the area. It might be painful at first to move your leg, however, the sooner you are able to move it, the quicker the cramp will subside. Once the cramp has gone, you can reduce the residual pain with some anti-inflammatories.
What you drink is important
Dehydration is a big cause of muscle cramp, and to avoid them you need to not only increase your liquid intake but look at what exactly it is that you are drinking. Coffee and soda, as delicious as they may be, actually dehydrate you, so you need to increase your intake of water. It is likely to be difficult to swap your usual coffee and soda beverage for a cold glass of H20, but if you get into the habit of it, you will notice the difference in your overall health, not to mention the reduction of cramps.
Diet is key
A lack of potassium in your diet is another key contributor to muscle cramps, so if you are finding yourself often suffering with them, it’s time to increase your intake. Potassium is found in bananas, mushrooms, fish, avocados, yogurt, potatoes and dark leafy greens such as spinach – so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get into your diet!
Building up the muscle strength in your legs is another fantastic way to help with regular muscle cramps, and there are several simple but effective exercises you can do to achieve this.
Squats – squats can be done anywhere, with or without weights and are an easy exercise to target a huge area of muscles, including your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps all at once. Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart, before moving into a squatting position slowly. Ensure your head stays up with your focus straight ahead to avoid straining your neck or back.
Lunges – Not just for your mom’s work out videos from the ’80s, lunges are great for working your hamstrings, calves, quads, glutes and inner thighs. Lunges will build muscle and strength in these areas, and you can make them harder and more effective by adding weights as you progress with them.
You should ensure that you stretch regularly, as keeping your muscles stretched and supple will work towards reducing your risk of painful leg cramps. After any workout, make sure you don’t skimp on stretching out – it could be the difference between getting a cramp and not. Remember, a cramp is your bodies way of telling you something. Perhaps it needs hydrating, more potassium or a good massage and stretch! Look after it before it needs to tell you any of those things, and avoid getting a cramp!