Cramps occur when muscle suddenly contracts painfully. They usually affect the limbs, as when a swimmer immerses in cold water (swimmer’s cramps), but it can also be felt in the abdominal muscles. Cramps are more likely to occur during pregnancy, when there is dehydration, or in the elderly.

Cramps will usually go away after a few minutes. Cramps lasting longer than an hour may indicate a serious problem.

What are the causes:

– Muscles that have been underused, like sitting in the same position too long.

– Muscles that have been overused, like excessive exercise.

– Lack of water and salts in the body.

– Exercising without proper warm-up.

What to Do:

– Stretch out the cramped muscle. For a leg cramp, sit with your leg flat on the floor and pull your toes toward you. For a foot cramp, walk on it. Do not bounce.

– Apply hot water bottle on the abdomen for menstrual and abdominal cramps.

– Gently but firmly massage the cramped muscle.

– A pain management technique that works for some people: Tightly squeeze the skin of your upper lip, just below the nose, between your thumb and index finger.

– Take paracetamol or ibuprofen for pain that continues after the cramps.

– If you suffer from frequent cramps, consult your doctor.

What your doctor can do:

– Prescribe a muscle relaxant for those who experience frequent attacks.

– Determine any underlying localized or systemic disorder that can cause cramps.

Prevention tips:

– Do warm up before exercising and cool down after.

– Drink plenty of liquids before, during, and after exercise. Water is best. Avoid caffeinated drinks. Drink an hour before exercising, and then every 12 to 15 minutes during exercise.

– Changes in diet are sometimes suggested for controlling cramps. Add foods high in calcium and potassium to your diet: dried apricots, bananas,whole-grain cereal, dried lentils, dried peaches, citrus fruits, and fresh vegetables for potassium.

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