What Causes Muscle Cramps?

What causes muscle cramps and how we can prevent them.

Muscle cramps, also known as Charlie Horses or spasms, can make a grown man shed a few tears. They can be excruciatingly painful. And sometimes, they can be downright humiliating. You know the scenario, you wake up in the middle of the night screaming at the top of your lungs. The pain is so intense and only getting worse. You cannot straighten your leg, the muscles have become so tight that your calf now feels like a rock, and you can't stand up. You want to cry, but the pain is so intense that tears won't even come. Your only choice is to rub and wait out the pain. Or is it?

No one seems to know the exact cause of muscle cramps, but some believe that muscle cramps occur because of low calcium or potassium in the blood. Others have said that lack of proper fluids, resulting in a mild case of dehydration can cause muscles to cramp. Some have even said that not getting enough blood circulation can cause cramping.

Types of muscle cramps that occur through the course of one's life:

· Women who are on their menstrual cycles tend to get severe leg cramps when their legs are exposed to cold air, such as the freezer section of the grocery store.

· Pregnant women tend to get muscle cramps while sleeping. This could be because the baby is taking most of the nutrition the woman places in the body; thereby leaving little for the woman's own body. It may also be that the woman is not drinking enough fluids, for fear of living in the restroom.

· People wearing the wrong shoes can end up with leg and feet cramps. Improper footwear can be too high of a high heel shoe, non-padded flat sandals, exercising in something other than a tennis shoe, or simply not wearing shoes while doing some form of exercise.

· People who have had some form of surgery can be affected with cramping of the muscles.

· Over use of the muscles through exercising, such as walking up hills when your legs are not properly warmed up, or entering freezing cold ocean water and trying to swim to shore.

· Cramping due to tight clothing, which cuts off the flow of blood throughout the body.

Preventing muscle cramps can be as simple as:

· regular exercise can help with circulation

· stretching of your muscles on a daily or nightly basis

· drinking eight glasses of liquid on a daily basis, preferably water

· eating enough foods rich in calcium and potassium; such as bananas, orange juice, potatoes and fresh vegetables

· cutting down on fatty as well as fried foods

· wearing elastic stockings throughout the day, thereby keeping the legs warm [This is especially helpful when one has varicose (enlarged or inflamed) veins.]

· wearing sock on your feet at night helps because when your feet are warm, your legs tend to stay warmer

Help when a muscle cramp comes on:

· place a heating pad on the cramped area

· soak in a warm tub of water

· have someone rub the cramp out, thereby warming up the area

· if it's a leg cramp, try standing up and walking it out

· last resort would be a muscle relaxer

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