Wellness Exercise Sports

Take the bite out of muscle cramps

Photo: Antonio_Diaz/iStockphoto

Have you ever experienced a “charley horse”? If so, you know how painful these sudden, tight muscle cramps can be.

Although their exact cause isn’t known, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says inadequate stretching and muscle fatigue may play a role. Exercising or working in the heat, as well as not staying hydrated, can lead to muscle cramps, too.

In addition, people who are elderly, ill, overweight or take certain medications may be at higher risk.

What to do

Help prevent muscle cramps by warming up and cooling down before and after you exercise. Here are a few stretching exercises from the AAOS:
Calf stretch: Lean forward with your hands against a wall and one leg in front of the other. Then, with your front knee bent, straighten your back leg and press your heel to the floor. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
Hamstring stretch: While in a sitting position on the floor, sit up tall with your legs extended out straight with your feet relaxed. Place your palms on the floor and slide your hands toward your ankles. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
Quadriceps stretch: Place your hands on a wall or the back of a chair for balance. Lift one foot and bring your heel up toward your buttocks. Grasp your ankle with your hand and pull your heel closer to your body. Hold for 30 seconds.

If you feel a cramp coming on, stop what you’re doing and gently stretch the muscle. Hold the stretched position until the cramp stops. If your muscles are tense and tight, apply a heat pack; if they’re sore or tender, use a cold pack.

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