Cramping – causes and treatment

cramp is defined as a spontaneous or involuntary electrical activity of a large number of skeletal muscle fibres. This quickly develops into a painful, sustained contraction (muscle spasm), known as a cramp. Cramping can be divided into 2 groups:

  • Nocturnal (night time) cramping
  • Exercise induced cramping


What Causes Exercise-Induced Cramping?

  • Overuse that fatigues the affected muscle
  • Dehydration and altered electrolyte imbalance/loss secondary to extensive sweating. This may be the primary cause or contribute to causing your cramps.
  • Incomplete recovery from a previous episode of cramping.
  • If you have tight muscles to begin with, the muscle can be predisposed to cramping. This can be exacerbated by a fatigued muscle
  • Pregnancy


What Causes Nocturnal Cramps?

  • Dehydration from insufficient fluid intake (or possibly drinking too many glasses of wine)!
  • Electrolyte imbalances (low magnesium, calcium or potassium etc.)
  • Muscle tightness
  • Poor blood circulation.
  • Pregnancy.


Treatment for Cramps

The first and foremost priority of treatment for cramps is identifying the root cause of your cramps. Whether this be tight muscles, over-exercising or a cause that requires further investigation. Our physio’s are experienced in finding out what is causing your cramps and will point you in the right direction.

Depending on what our physio’s find, treatment may involve:

  • Lengthening/stretching of tight muscles.
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Strengthening weak muscles.
  • Other contributing factors
  • Increase fluid intake.
  • Reducing coffee/alcohol intake.
  • Vitamin/electrolyte balancing eg magnesium powder, bananas
  • Modifying current exercise regimes.


What to do When You Cramp?

If you experience a cramp, the quickest way to relieve it is to stretch it out – i.e. if you get a cramp in your calf, stretch your calf by pulling your toes towards your knee. It sounds simple, but try to move out of the position that caused you to cramp.

If cramps are a regular occurrence for you, see one of our physio’s for a stretching routine that will ease the cramp when it comes on and potentially prevent it from occurring. You can book an appointment online here




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