It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working out your entire life or have recently started an exercise routine, a muscle cramp is going to hurt and stop your workout in its tracks. To make matters worse, physiologists still don’t exactly understand what causes a muscle to cramp up. Some cramps may originate from the brain after it sends a random and incorrect neural discharge down to a muscle group, telling it to contract and seize up without your input. Others might stem from the cramping muscle itself, a stray skeletomuscular reaction to no input at all.
While the origin of muscle cramps are relatively unknown, how to prevent and get rid of the muscular menaces is, thankfully, better understood. With the right steps and hints in mind, you should be able to keep up your exercise routine without living in fear of a debilitating cramp.
Here’s seven tips, hints, and bits of advice you should know to fight off muscle cramps:
- Warm-up and stretch: Before you get into any workout routine, ensure you are taking the right amount of time to stretch and warm your muscles, no matter how familiar you are with the workout. Haste makes waste, especially when it comes to inducing muscle cramps.
- Sip and snack: Even a brief workout is going to be a bit of a journey for your body. Plan for the metaphorical road ahead by packing some snacks – carbohydrates are great – and water. Sports drinks often have carbs right in them, so rationing one out during your workout can typically satisfy both needs at once.
- Gradual progress: Some of the worst cramps that happen occur after an athlete tries to leap forward dramatically in his or her workout regimen. Your muscles get beat up each time you lift, run, etc. Don’t expect a massive and rapid improvement, but instead go slow and let your body recover.
- Complete workout: Many people going through strength training know exactly what muscle they want to improve, and understandably zero in their focus there. To reduce the chance of getting crippled by a cramp mid-workout, the entire muscle group and those adjacent must also be given some attention. For example, if you are trying to get bigger biceps, take care to exercise your triceps and shoulders as well.
- Just relax: If and when a cramp strikes, it is important to try to force your body to relax. A cramp, by its nature, feels like the muscle is stuck in flex mode, and it hurts. Calming your mind will lead to your body’s tranquility, so remember that the cramp will pass and relax.
- Focused massage: While you are relaxing your mind, use your hands to relax the muscle with a gentle massage right where the pain originates. Don’t try to be the master masseuse and smash the cramp away, though. Just light pressure that doesn’t add to the pain. If you can’t easily reach the muscle – maybe you have a cramp during a back exercise routine – it might be time to call in a favor from your workout buddy.
- Healthy diet: Since the exact origin of cramps are unknown, it is safe to assume that a healthy diet and general body care can help. Try to wean yourself off your guilty pleasures – like sweets, alcohol, smoking, and so on – to better prepare your body for unexpected problems, such as a painful cramp. Consider speaking to a dietician or physician for more information.
At Integrative Foot & Ankle Centers of Washington, our Seattle podiatrists have helped countless patients manage foot pain and cramping experienced during workouts. We are specialists when it comes to regular foot care, pain management, and even surgical procedures in cases of extreme and chronic cramping. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you minimize your foot pain and cramping – we also serve clients in Kirkland, Everett, Renton, and more!