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Preventing muscle cramps

Preventing muscle cramps is not easy. Your body contains more than 600 muscles. Some of these muscles are voluntary and some are involuntary. Voluntary muscles are those you move by choice. They are the ones most often affected by cramps. In particular, the calf muscles, the muscles in your upper arms, the muscles behind your thighs, and the muscles in front of your thighs are susceptible to cramping.

You control your voluntary muscles by sending a signal from your brain to the muscle. When a voluntary muscle contracts on its own, you experience a muscle cramp or spasm. The difference between the two is the force of the muscle contraction. A rapid contraction and release of muscle, without pain, is a spasm. If the contraction is prolonged and painful, it’s a muscle cramp.

How you treat muscle cramps depends on what is causing the cramping. Occasional muscle cramps caused by overuse will generally stop if you stop the activity. Stretching the cramping muscle should release the tension causing the cramp. You can also use ice and heat to relieve the tension of a cramped muscle. Even warm towels wrapped around the muscle can bring relief.

Preventing muscle cramps from occurring calls for stretching your muscles before and after a strenuous or athletic activity. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds; there is no benefit for stretching less than or more than 30 seconds.

Staying hydrated by drinking enough fluids to keep your body’s electrolytes from depleting also helps in preventing muscle cramps.

If your muscle cramps are frequent, lengthy, and unbearably painful, you may need to seek medical attention. You need to find the cause of your muscle cramps; they may be a result of an illness and not merely overexertion. Consult your physician.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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