At some point in your life you’ve probably had muscle cramps; when a muscle that normally only does what you tell it to do, suddenly gets a mind of its own and decides to contract, even when you tell it to calm down. They can hit during a workout or just when you move a certain way, or they may even wake you up in the middle of the night.
Muscle cramps are very common, and while usually harmless, they can be extremely painful, and can signal that something else is wrong within your body. While cramping can occur in any muscle, the lower legs and feet tend to be the most common.
4 Common causes of Muscle Cramps and what you can do about them:
MINERAL IMBALANCES: Our bodies require a very delicate balance of minerals to be kept. As we sweat and our bodies continue basic functions, this delicate balance can be thrown off if we’re not regularly replenishing those minerals. And while potassium is often the most vilified when it comes to muscle cramps, sodium, calcium, and magnesium also play an important role. Many people assume that if they’re having muscle cramps it means they’re deficient in one or more of these minerals, but too much may also result in cramping. Each plays an important role in muscle function and too much or too little of any of them can disrupt normal function, resulting in those irritating cramps.
You may need to change your diet, or increase or decrease your supplements. It’s important to speak with your doctor about what changes you can make to get your body back into balance.
DEHYDRATION: Along with that delicate mineral balance, hydration is just as important. In order for cellular functions to happen correctly, cells need to be hydrated; keeping the proper balance of water and minerals. Muscle cramps are especially common in athletes and physical laborers, particularly in extreme heat conditions when our bodies require much more water. If you’re experiencing regular cramping, increasing your water intake may be a simple solution.
OVERUSE: For many athletes, weekend warriors, or just exercise enthusiasts, overusing any muscle can be a big cause of muscle cramping. Whether this is chronic overuse or a sudden change in intensity of your exercise routine, the nervous system is usually to blame here. When you’re really pushing yourself during a workout, your nerves can become overexcited and it can be difficult to calm them down. This is just another reason to take the time after every workout to cool down, stretch, and let, not only your muscles, but your nervous system calm back down into a resting state. But if those deep cool downs aren’t cutting it, you may want to try backing off your workouts and see if your body adjusts. And if you still want to increase your intensity, just do it slowly.
LACK OF MOVEMENT: On the opposite end of the spectrum, too little movement can be just as detrimental and result in muscle cramps. Again, your nervous system is probably to blame here and it’s simply a malfunction of the nerves. A little stimulation to them can often solve this problem. If your job keeps you sitting all the time, try taking a 5-10 minute break every hour and just walk around the office.
It is all about balance. Your body requires a delicate balance to be kept of water and minerals, movement and rest. If you’re experiencing muscle cramps, ask yourself what changes can you make to get your body back into balance?
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