We have all had them, but exactly what is a cramp, what causes a cramp, and what do they mean?
A muscle cramp is an involuntary, often painful, spasm of a muscle. These spasms last from a few seconds to minutes. The muscles of the foot and calf are most commonly affected.
What causes a cramp?
There are many variables that can contribute to muscles cramps, and as such, the exact cause is often unknown. There are risk factors that can leave people more susceptible to having muscle cramps though. Some of these include:
- Electrolyte imbalance (e.g. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium)
- Poor muscle flexibility
- Underlying musculoskeletal injuries (to protect the injured area from moving)
- Excessive perspiration
- Medication use
While the above factors can be addressed, they are often harmless. At times cramping can indicate more sinister pathologies although these are rare. Some of these include:
- Poor blood supply to muscles (e.g. narrowing of blood vessels in the calf)
- Nerve compression (e.g. pinched nerves in the back causes cramping in the legs)
How to prevent cramps from occurring?
The best way to prevent cramps from occurring is to address the underlying cause. As there are many variables it is recommended to consult your physician, particularly if cramps last more than a minute and occur frequently.
How can Physiotherapy help?
If the cramps are caused by poor muscle flexibility, neural tension or injuries, physiotherapy can assist in restoring pain-free movement and constructing an exercise programme addressing these factors. A detailed assessment can also reveal any imbalances which may be predisposing a particular muscle group to ongoing cramps.
Come and get an assessment by the expert team at Bend + Mend Physiotherapy in Sydney’s CBD today!