Freeman Cebu Sports

What causes muscle cramps

FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus - The Freeman

As a follow-up to our previous topic on muscle cramps (the uncontrollable contraction of one or more muscles), I had a couple of readers asking me what causes them.  In my case, it’s closely related to Type 2 diabetes, which, with diet and lifestyle change, thankfully, is controlled.

Anyone can be affected by muscle cramps but the more susceptible are athletes, pregnant women, the elderly, the overweight and in some cases, children.  Cramps mostly occur in the feet, calves, thighs and hamstrings, but they can also occur in the abdomen, arms, hands and fingers.   They can last for several seconds to as long as 15 minutes.

In the case of diabetics, imbalances in blood sugar levels can lead to muscle cramps.  Low blood sugar levels starve muscles of glucose, likewise, high glucose levels reduce the availability of electrolytes like potassium, magnesium and calcium.  Diabetic neuropathy can also cause muscle cramps due to nerve damage and poor circulation.

Dehydration is the most common cause of muscle cramps.   It can also occur when we do away with stretching before and after exercising.  It can be prevented if we drink enough fluids.  Most sports drinks contain caffeine, so unless we do high intensity workouts for at least an hour, we better go easy on them as consuming too much caffeine can also cause cramping.  Coffee is a diuretic and makes us pee often.  It would be advisable to have a glass of water after each cup of that addictive bitter beverage.

Aside from blood sugar level imbalance, nerve damage, electrolyte deficiency and dehydration, muscle cramps can also by caused by infection, thyroid problems and for some people taking medications like anti hypertensives and ibuprofen.  There are cases where insulin injections also cause cramping.

Treatment is simple.  Taking a break and stretching the cramped muscle usually does the trick as well as massaging the area.  An ice pack or heat pad also helps.  There’s a need to seek medical advise if we experience frequent cramping so medication or lifestyle change can be recommended to find the best treatment.

Prevention is the key so we should be aware of the possible causes of these annoyances.

I am not an authority on the matter.  This is a consolidation of notes gathered from several online medical and fitness newsletters which I think is beneficial to share with you, dear reader.


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