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What Causes Muscle Cramps?

What Causes Muscle Cramps?


Muscle cramps, sometimes also referred to as charley horses, can affect anyone and at any time regardless of fitness level.

Muscle cramps are a sudden, involuntary contraction or tightening of the muscle, which then fails to relax. They can last a for a few seconds or sometimes up to 15 minutes. The affected muscle can often feel hard and tender to the touch during a muscle cramp. A visible muscle twitch can sometimes be seen. These muscle contractions can occur in various skeletal muscles across the body and are often quite painful. The most common areas for a muscle cramp to occur are in the lower leg, foot, back, and often in muscles that cross two joints. Muscle cramps tend to occur more often in athletes who have over exerted themselves, infants, the elderly, the obese, and those taking certain medications.

The exact cause of muscle cramps are often difficult to determine. Muscle cramps may be brought on by a number of different activities and conditions. Often these causes are only temporary and will go away after some rest and stretching. The most common causes of muscle spasms are:

  • Exercising and overuse of muscles
  • Poor conditioning and inadequate stretching
  • Muscle strains and injuries
  • Exposure to cold temperatures
  • Inadequate blood flow
  • Stress
  • Mineral deficiency of potassium magnesium and calcium
  • Being dehydrated

Generally, treatment for muscle cramps can be carried out by stretching out the muscle, massage, using a combination of heat to promote relaxation of the muscle and ice to help numb any pain being caused. Stretching helps lengthen the muscle fibres and allow a more powerful contraction when exercising. Occasionally, muscle cramps occur in relation to more serious conditions affecting nerves, arteries, thyroid glands and chronic infection. If this is suspected, examination by your doctor is advised so that appropriate tests may be carried out.

Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, our physiotherapists can assist in the treatment of cramps through the use of massage, dry needling and passive stretching. Physiotherapy has been shown to be very beneficial in the treatment for muscle cramps.

If you have any questions regarding muscle cramps or wish to book an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact us here.

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