Cramps are extremely common. Almost everyone (one estimate is about 95%) experiences a cramp at some time in their life. Cramps are common in adults and become increasingly frequent with aging. However, children also experience cramps.
Any of the muscles that are under our voluntary control (skeletal muscles) can cramp. Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf (the classic “charley horse”), are very common. Involuntary muscles of the various organs (uterus, blood vessel wall, intestinal tract, bile and urine passages, bronchial tree, etc.) are also subject to cramps.
The most commonly affected muscle groups are:
- Back of lower leg/calf (gastrocnemius).
- Back of thigh (hamstrings).
- Front of thigh (quadriceps).
- Feet, hands, arms, abdomen
- It is related to poor flexibility, muscle fatigue or doing new activity.
- Other factors associated with muscle cramps include exercising in extreme heat, dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
- Cramps are more common during exercise in the heat because sweat contains fluids as well as electrolyte (salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium).
- Improve fitness and avoid muscle fatigue
- Stretch regularly after exercise – Warm up before exercise
- Stretch the calf muscle: In a standing lunge with both feet pointed forward, straighten the rear leg.
- Stretch the hamstring muscle: Sit with one leg folded in and the other straight out, foot upright and toes and ankle relaxed. Lean forward slightly, touch foot of straightened leg. (Repeat with opposite leg.)
- Stretch the Quadriceps muscle: While standing, hold top of foot with opposite hand and gently pull heel toward buttocks. (Repeat with opposite leg.)
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