Muscle cramps: they can be one of the more uncomfortable things a person can experience. The areas that are more commonly affected are the hamstrings, quads, calves, rib cage, and feet. They may wake you up at night or suddenly occur during physical activity. Some people are predisposed to getting muscle cramps; some only get them in very particular circumstances or hardly at all. One thing is for sure: muscles cramps can really get you down.
Of course, athletes and people engaging in physical activity have a higher chance of getting muscle cramps, especially when they are not getting enough hydration (especially 4 – 6 hours after exercising) and/or in case of an electrolyte imbalance. Heat or sharp changes in temperature may be the culprit, as well. An inadequate amount of warm-up and stretching the muscles also increases the risk of getting muscle cramps.
However, there are other things that can cause muscle cramps that are not related to physical activity. Advanced age increases frequency of cramps, as do certain medications, like diuretics. Various disorders and illnesses, like circulation problems, hormonal imbalances, dietary imbalances, thyroid disorders, cirrhosis, and neurological disorders may put you at a greater risk of muscle cramps.
For some, treating cramps may be as easy as eating a banana, which is rich in potassium. However, if your muscle cramps are a continuous problem, you should see your doctor. They will want to talk about the entire history surrounding those muscle cramps, in order to get a clear picture of all of the possible causes, because the majority of diagnoses come from in-depth analysis of a patient’s history.
For the rest of us, the best thing to do is to simply warm up before exercising, keep hydrated, replenish electrolytes during and after exercise, and stop and stretch when muscle cramps attack. It’s the body’s natural way of telling us to slow down and take care of ourselves.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.