Muscle cramps are painful, involuntary contractions of a muscle. They occur commonly in a variety of different people. They are generally harmless and subside quickly. However, many people want to avoid them due to the pain and discomfort they impose on day to day life.
Here are a few things that may predispose you to getting muscle cramps.
- Low level of electrolytes- specifically Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium
- Exercise or a prolonged hold of one position
- Certain medications
- Underlying medical conditions that decrease blood supply to skeletal muscle
- Compression of nerves- pinched nerve root or spinal cord damage
Many people have heard that you should drink 8 ounces of water 8 times per day. But according to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of water you need per day depends on your weight, gender, activity level and the climate in which you live. (5) The best thing to do is to pay attention to your level of thirst and level of activity, and drink enough water to meet your needs. It is also important to ensure you are taking in enough electrolytes. According to Earp et. Al, the most important electrolytes for reducing muscle cramps are Sodium (Na) Potassium (K) and Magnesium (Mg). (2)
Exercise and muscle injury can also cause cramps. This often occurs after holding one position for a long period of time. You can decrease the occurrence of exercise-induced muscle cramps by stretching before and after exercise. You can also use a hot pack to help the muscle relax.
If you think your muscle cramps could be related to another medical condition such as compression of nerves or dialysis, you should talk to your doctor about potential medical treatments. Certain medications can also increase the occurrence of muscle cramps (4). Muscle cramps during pregnancy may be related to electrolyte imbalance (1). Pregnant women should ask their doctor about appropriate treatments for their specific case.
There are many causes of uncomfortable muscle cramps. Identifying the cause of your muscle cramps can help to reduce their occurrence and make your day a little better.
- Department of OBGYN, Faculty of Medicine Chulalangkorn University Bankok, Thialand. Oral Magnesium for Relief in Pregnancy Induced Leg Cramps: a Randomised Control Trial.
- Earp, and Sterns. Electrolyte Beverage Consumption Alters Electrically Induced Cramping Threshold.
- “Muscle Spasms | Charley Horse .” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 May 2019, medlineplus.gov/musclecramps.html.
- Sawada. Effect of Furosemide on Muscle Cramps in Patients with Liver Cirrhosis.
- “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Sept. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256.