Muscle Cramps and Soreness


A lot of times, sore muscles and even cramping can be one of the  negative side effects to exercise. Paying your dues in the gym seems plenty high a price, but when you add in the pain associated with sore muscles, for some the price becomes too steep. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help and even prevent this from happening to you.

Muscle cramps occur when any given  muscle contracts and doesn’t relax, this is called tetany. Muscle cramps  are involuntary. Often, you can  feel or  even see your muscle twitching. At times, after you finally get the muscle to relax, it  will  remain weak, fatigued  and  even  end up feeling sore for a day or two. Muscle cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to 25 minutes or longer. Some people actually experience muscle cramping and contraction so intense, that it  can, and will,  break their bones. Thankfully, this is a rare condition that most of us will never experience.   The majority of us  deal with muscle cramps on a much lesser scale. Cramping can be experienced during exercise, sitting at your desk  or even when you’re sleeping.  They most commonly occur in  the legs, usually in the calf, but also in the hamstrings and quads.

The reasons that muscle cramps occur are numerous. Improper stretching combined with overexertion of the muscles leads to a build up of lactic acid. This build up is what leads to muscle soreness. Dehydration is  another common cause of muscle cramping. With dehydration being a factor, make sure you take enough water with you if you are planning on being in hot weather at all, but especially if you will be exercising.

When cramps do strike, instead of making funny faces and saying words you have to tell the kiddos not to repeat, there are a few tricks you can try that should help the muscle relax. First, start with a gentle stretch of the the area that is cramping. Don’t  stretch too far though, just lightly reach  until you feel the cramp start to relax. Remember that stretching should never be painful, if it becomes painful you are pushing the muscle too far, ease up a bit.

Another thing you can do that will reduce the amount of pain you are feeling is to lightly massage the cramping muscle(s), making sure you don’t rub too hard. This often alleviates the cramp and allows you to get back to whatever you were doing before it hit.

To prevent them from taking place at all, include stretching  after every single workout. The benefits of stretching are ten fold. Not only will you gain a larger range of motion and greater flexibility, but stretching helps keep your muscles healthy. A friend of mine, who is a massage therapist, swears by stretching. Remember when stretching, to be in control  of your breathing. Take nice deep breaths, it will deliver the much needed oxygen to your tired muscles to help them begin recovering. You’ll be glad you did.

Also,  make sure you always  warm up before the heavy exercise portion of your workout so that you don’t shock your muscles. Always ease into each exercise and follow proper progression guidelines, pushing too much weight too soon will only result in injury. Injuries only take you out of the game.

Avoid eating a big meal right before your workout. As you start to workout, blood is shunted away from your digestive system and towards your working muscles. This can result  in nausea and stomach cramping for some people. Always remember to  drink water. Your muscles are  made mostly of water, you’ll need to drink water to keep them performing  at their best. Staying hydrated will also keep your joints moving fluidly and help with electrolyte imbalances that can cause muscle cramps.

Muscle cramps and muscle soreness is not something that can be avoided forever. Hard work usually pays you back with sore muscles. However, if you get cramps on a regular basis and don’t feel as though there is a reason to explain them, be sure to consult your doctor or other health care provider.

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