I think it is safe to say that few things are as uncomfortable and even downright painful as an unexpected leg cramp. They are often abrupt and it seems like they come out of nowhere, only to bring severe discomfort that can last for a seemingly endless amount of time. I have suffered from my fair share of leg cramps, and so I decided to do some research about them. If nothing else, I wanted to know why I was getting them, what I could do to lessen the pain, and how to prevent more of them from occurring in the future. Here’s what I learned from a great post by How Stuff Works.
It turns out that very little research has actually been done on the potential causes of leg cramps, despite the fact that they’re a pretty common affliction. However, there are certain known factors that contribute to body cramping in general, such as extreme temperatures, dehydration, low blood sugar, and salt imbalances after sweating, which can be caused by intense exercise.
It actually turns out that exercise-induced cramps are the most common kind of leg cramp. It’s thought that cramps in the leg happen when a muscle is shortened (for example, a calf muscle becomes shortened when your toes are pointed) and repeatedly stimulated and worked for a prolonged period of time. As you would expect, this causes your muscles to become fatigued. Without enough rest in between exercise reps, the nerves in this area continue to send contraction signals between the central nervous system (CSN) and your muscle, leading to a sustained contraction, which is what we know to be cramps. The calf muscle is most prone to cramping since it crosses two joints, the knee and the ankle, allowing for greater chances of contraction.
So how do you stop this painful affliction? Stretching is really the only guaranteed way to ease the pain of leg cramps. Here is how to stretch for pain relief. Grab your toe and gently stretch the calf; you should feel the pain subsiding within five minutes. You can also stretch out your calf by walking it out, or at least shaking your leg while standing in place if you don’t have room to walk around. Anything to get your calf extended will have a high chance of relieving pain from your cramp at a faster rate.
It’s also important to know how to prevent these cramps from occurring in the first place. In addition to staying hydrated throughout the day, nutritionists recommend taking potassium and magnesium supplements every day to reduce the frequency of cramps. Athletes are often suggested to eat a potassium-rich food such as a banana after exercise or movement.
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