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What is a Muscle Cramp?

muscle cramps
The calf muscle commonly cramps during strenuous exercise.

Muscle cramps are generally tightening or spasming of the muscle that causes pain and lasts between a few seconds and a few minutes. They most commonly occur in the leg muscles, but can be seen in the hand, arm or back.

What causes muscle cramps?

Most commonly, when you think of muscle cramping, you think of athletes and their inability to continue playing due to a sudden cramp in the calf or hamstring. Whilst exercise or overuse is a cause of muscle cramps, there are many other potential contributing factors. These include but are not limited to exposure to cold or heat, circulatory diseases, kidney disease, thyroid disorders, maintaining prolonged positions, dehydration, and lack of minerals such as potassium and calcium. Due to the various causes of muscle cramping, it is important to determine what is causing them in order to be able to effectively treat and prevent.

How can you stop muscle cramping?

Muscle cramps can be stopped through a number of methods. Stretching, massage or heat/cold applied to the muscle may be effective in immediately stopping the muscle cramp from occurring. If a muscle cramp comes on during an activity, the most popular way of stopping it quickly is to stretch the muscle for about 30 seconds.

How can you prevent muscle cramping?

As there are many factors that can contribute to muscle cramps, there are several ways to help prevent them.

  • Drink sufficient water.
  • Consume electrolyte drink such as Gatorade during sporting performance.
  • Increase intake of foods containing potassium, calcium and magnesium.
  • Warm up and cool down before and after exercising. This may include stretching.
  • Limit sudden increases in amount of exercise, gradually build up to longer or more intense workouts.

Give us a call on 1800 992 999 or email us on [email protected] if you have any further questions, or if you would like to book in for a careful diagnosis and assessment with one of our experienced physiotherapists today!


Healthwise Staff. 2017. Muscle Cramps. Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/za1086

Palmer, B. 2017. What causes muscle cramps? Retrieved from https://www.medibank.com.au/livebetter/health-brief/health-check/what-causes-muscle-cramps/.

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