Muscle cramps are not a severe problem but they could be!
What exactly is it? In simple language, it is the involuntarily and forcible contractions of any Muscle of the body though it mainly involves the leg and feet muscles.
Every person experiences cramps sometime or the other in their life and these cramps usually last for a few seconds to multiple minutes. sessions. But there is no need to panic, however in some instances the cramps might be painful and may impair daily functioning.
The symptoms are muscle tightness, acute pain, and swelling but the situation can be prevented with adequate nutritional intake, hydration and being attentive while exercising.
Cramps occur without warning – let’s check out what could be potential causative factors for the same.
1. Dehydration and mineral deficiency
Hydration is very essential for healthy wellbeing. Fluid and electrolyte balance plays an important role in muscle contraction. As the body losses the water and electrolytes in the form of sweat, it leads to electrolyte imbalance.
Essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, Magnesium also get excreted and contribute to muscle cramps.
That is why athletes usually carry electrolyte beverages to prevent sudden muscle cramps. Also, they can compensate for the losses by having muscle friendly foods such as banana, yogurt, spinach, nuts which are rich in potassium to rule out the issue.
2. Poor Blood Circulation
As we know proper blood circulation is extremely important for our body. Blood carries oxygen, nutrients and mineral through arteries which are required for proper organ function and the growth of the cell. Lack of nutrients and minerals causes deprivation of blood flow and causes cramps, numbness, itching around the affected area.
Narrowing of the arteries supplying blood from the heart to legs causes cramps to legs and feet while exercising.
When the muscles are fatigued, they won’t utilize the nutrients efficiently which results in more loss than its utilization. A low level of nutrients gives a cramping sensation.
4. Exercise associated muscle cramps
While exercising the body loses water in the form of sweat and electrolytes as well. So, as we discussed earlier fluid-electrolyte imbalance is a major causative factor behind cramps during exercises.
Another theory is about neuromuscular activity – which means when the muscle is overworked and fatigued, it gives a painful sensation in legs.
Expecting woman feels muscle spasms usually in the second or third trimester of pregnancy as a deficiency of Magnesium and potassium at this stage. Therefore, it is advised to stay hydrated and take mineral rich supplements with the consultation of a doctor.
Another possible factor is a decrease in blood circulation in legs due to the pressure of the baby on blood vessels. We cannot forget the Braxton-hicks contractions, of course, which usually set in, in the last trimester of pregnancy.
6. Nerve Compression
Compressed nerves in spine also produce pain and it may get worsen the longer you walk.
7. Peripheral artery Disease
When you find cramps, not because of exercise or other factors then It might be because of cholesterol blockage in peripheral arteries(atherosclerosis). This situation makes the poor blood flow in that area results in muscle cramps.
8. Blood Glucose level
Muscles need glucose to contract and relax. If too little or high sugar level is there, it adversely affects the daily functioning of physical activity and triggers Muscle cramps. Therefore, proper nutrition, exercise, and consultation of a physician helps to manage the condition.
9. Diabetic Peripheral neuropathy
People with high blood sugar levels may have damaged nerves in arms, legs, feet, and hands, therefore, the sensation of numbness or tingling occurs. But may also cause leg cramps as improper functioning of nerves. Proper diabetic treatment with pain medication helps to tackle down the cramps.
The condition indicates thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone which directly affects the nerves sending signals from brain and spine to arms and legs. Effects are sensation of tingling, numbness or muscle cramps.
Nowadays this has become a rare disease as all people are vaccinated against tetanus. This is the severe life-threatening disease caused by the bacteria Clostridium Tetni which enters into the blood and releases toxins. In this, hyperexcitation of nerves cause muscle cramps all over the body.
12. Worst foods for causing leg pain
Sugar and processed foods are the worst and damages the digestive tract so badly. This is the potential cause behind all chronic diseases.
Alcohol mainly damages the gut flora and destroys the body’s ability of detoxification.
Grains both refined or not cause the muscle cramps as high levels of lectins and phytic in grains decreases the absorption of magnesium. And the low level of minerals gives a painful sensation.
Refined Vegetable oil including soy, canola, and corn oils are the most unfavourable options for cooking and basis of Muscle spasms.
Pasteurized dairy products are also bad food for cramps.
Diuretics furosemide, bumetanide cause excretion of essential electrolytes sodium, potassium,chloride through urine. Thus, it deprives the level of these causes fatigue and muscle pain.
Beta Blockers manly atenolol, metoprolol and timolol cause the narrowing of the arteries leads to poor blood flow in the limbs. Thus, causing stiffness of muscles.
Statins and fibrates are used to treat high cholesterol levels. These drugs inhibit the production of satellite cells in the muscle, interfering with muscle growth.
Antipsychotic drugs include haloperidol,risperidone, aripiprazole etc are used to treat anxiety thus it works by decreasing the dopamine level. Results in the feeling of drowsiness, sleepiness and muscle stiffness give cramping effects.
Other classes of drugs such as Donepezil and Neostigmine are used for Alzheimer’s disease and Myasthenia Gravis respectively causes Muscle stiffness.