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How to Prevent Muscle Cramps

 Your leg muscles are made up of bundles of fibers that contract and expand to create movement. A cramp occurs when your muscle has a sudden contraction created involuntarily. If you've ever been woken up in the middle of the night or stopped in your tracks by a sudden muscle spasm, then you are familiar with the pain and discomfort that comes with muscle cramps.

Although they are very common and usually not harmful, athletes are more prone to muscle cramps because of the amount of physical activity their muscles go through. Exercise is a common trigger, and without proper care and hydration, there is a greater risk for damage. To help avoid leg cramps in the future, here are a few things you can do to create a healthier experience:

  • Drink plenty of fluids before and during exercise.
  • Warm-up before a workout with some walking or a slow jog.
  • Be sure to stretch after every workout.

Muscles need fluid to contract and relax properly. If muscle cramping is more common to you, you might be experiencing a deficiency of electrolytes in your diet. A lack of magnesium and potassium can lead to more frequent cramping and prevent your muscles from completely relaxing.

Exercise is not the only cause of cramping in your muscles. Other causes include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Age
  • Medications

Pregnancy can increase your risk of cramping due to circulatory changes and increased stress on the muscles from a growing belly. Age can also increase muscle cramps. Older muscles become more delicate with age because they are more sensitive to lower fluid volumes in the body. Medicines like statins used to treat patients with high cholesterol can cause cramping as a side effect.

With all of this in mind, there are a few things you can do to treat your muscle aches and injuries. Here are some helpful tips to help you loosen up your muscles.

  • Massaging or gently stretching the muscle
  • Heat to soothe tense muscles
  • Heating pad
  • Warm wet washcloth to help loosen the muscle

Remember, if you have severe pain, your cramping occurs often, or you are experiencing other symptoms such as numbness or weakness, you should consult your doctor. 

At Carle McLean County Orthopedics, we are your resource for all your orthopedic needs. Want more information?  Call us at (309) 663-6141 

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