Sunday, June 4, 2023

Why Do I Get Muscle Cramps?

The exact cause of muscle cramps is unknown but muscle fatigue, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance are often involved.


Dehydrated or tired muscles, magnesium, calcium, and potassium deficiencies, and certain medicines can cause muscle cramps.

The Science

  • Muscle cramps are sudden, very painful tightening of muscles, especially in the calf, hamstring or thigh. Many people get them at night, though sportspersons may face them during workouts.
  • The exact cause of muscle cramps is unknown, but muscle fatigue is often involved. When leg muscles are used or exercised for an extended period or in heat, they may get tired or dehydrated, become irritated and cramp up.
  • At night, sleeping with your toes pointing downward and away from the body—called plantarflexion—causes the calf muscles to be contracted, which can trigger muscle cramps.
  • Deficiencies of electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium may prevent muscles from relaxing fully, leading to frequent cramping.
  • With age, muscles tire out easily and can be more sensitive to dehydration. So cramps are more frequent in old age.
  • People who take statins (cholesterol-lowering medicines), diuretics (water-lowering medication), or certain painkillers may face cramps as a side effect.
  • Excess weight can increase the risk of muscle cramps.
  • Pregnant women may get cramps due to hormonal changes and excess weight on the feet.
  • Among medical causes, narrowing of the leg arteries and nerve compression in the spine are common and cause muscle cramps mainly while walking or exercising.
  • Some liver and thyroid disorders, as well as diabetes, can increase the risk of muscle cramps.
  • Most muscle cramps are harmless and can be managed by massaging and gently stretching the muscle, such as by pulling your toes towards the body (dorsiflexion) in calf cramps.
  • Avoid dehydration, replenish electrolytes, reduce excess weight, and strengthen muscles by increasing protein intake in old age.

To Read More

First Published on: 2nd May 2023
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic on Freepik


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