Muscle cramps are something that nearly all of us are likely to experience at least once. If you’ve ever had a charley horse, you know firsthand how uncomfortable and downright painful muscle cramps can be. But what is a muscle cramp?
In short, a muscle cramp is an involuntary tightening of your muscle. The muscle tightens up very quickly and doesn’t relax, resulting in a significant amount of pain. Muscle cramps can happen nearly anywhere, but they’re most common in the thigh (front and bank) as well as the back of the calf.
Common muscle cramp symptoms include:
- A muscle that feels hard to the touch
- Twitching or distorting underneath the skin
- A cramping sensation that you’re unable to relax
- Discomfort anywhere from a slight twinge to an agonizing pain
Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes muscle cramps in the first place. However, muscle fatigue can be a significant risk factor. You’re more likely to develop a muscle cramp if you’ve been using your muscles a lot, particularly if you’re also in intense heat or are dehydrated. Sometimes, using certain medications can also cause muscle cramps or increase your likelihood of developing them.
There are also some risk factors that may make you predisposed to developing muscle cramps. Those who are sick or overweight are more likely to experience muscle cramps, as well as those who are overexerting themselves during exercise or work. Athletes are likely to experience muscle cramps and sports-related injuries during the preseason when they are rebuilding their muscles.
Muscle Cramp Treatment
In the vast majority of cases, you won’t need to see a doctor about your muscle cramp. Most muscle cramp treatment can be performed at home without any assistance.
First, immediately stop doing whatever activity led to your muscle cramp. Wherever the muscle cramp pain is, massage and gently stretch the area. Hold this stretched position until the cramp stops. You can also use heat on tight muscles to help loosen them, or you can use cold to relieve pain associated with sore and tender muscles.
If your cramps begin to happen more frequently or become more painful, it may be time to consult a doctor. You might also visit a doctor if your muscle cramps don’t get better with at-home treatment methods or if they aren’t caused by strenuous exercise or other obvious causes.
Muscle Cramp Prevention
Thankfully, there are several easy and effective ways to help prevent muscle cramps, allowing you to enjoy your favorite activities with a decreased risk of injury.
Be sure you’re always working on your flexibility. The easier it is for your muscles to stretch and move, the less likely they are to cramp up. Do some light flexibility exercises before and after your regular workouts as well as on rest days.
No matter what kind of exercise you’re doing, it’s imperative to warm up. Simple activities like brisk walks or light jogs can get your blood flowing and prepare your muscles for the physical demand you’re about to place on them.
Why Choose Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global?
Muscle cramps are typically quite mild and are easy to treat on your own. If you do need to work with an expert, the team at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global is here. Our team has undergone extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of muscle cramps, so if this issue is disrupting your daily life, we can create a personalized treatment plan to help. We’ll also recommend you to our physical therapy team at COG Restore, who will teach you strengthening exercises and simple ways to stretch and prevent future muscle cramps.
To speak with a muscle cramp specialist on our team here at Comprehensive Orthopaedic Global in St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, or the Virgin Islands, please request an appointment using our online portal or contact us via phone at (340) 779-2663.