t Injury Prevention - Muscle Cramp and Spasm
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Muscle Cramp & Spasm

Brad Walker explains the causes, prevention and treatment for muscle cramps and spasms

Muscle cramp and spasm are an annoying condition that involves a sudden, involuntary contraction and tightening of a muscle that will not immediately relax. They can involve part or all of a muscle or a number of muscles within a muscle group and although a spasm or cramp can occur in about any muscle, the most common muscle groups affected are:

  • The lower leg and calf muscles
  • The upper leg, including both the hamstrings and quadriceps
  • The feet and hands

Muscle cramps and spasms can range in intensity from a slight twitch to a severe, agonizing contraction. They can last anywhere from a few seconds to over 15 minutes and can usually be seen visibly by the way the muscle twitches and moves under the skin.

Who does it affect most?

People who are at the greatest risk of muscle cramps and spasms are those who ill, overweight or unfit. Those who take drugs or certain medication and those who live or work in excessive heat and humidity are also prone to cramping. Muscle cramps are also common among endurance athletes and people over 65 years of age who perform a strenuous physical activity.

What Causes Muscle Cramps and Spasms?

There are a number of factors that contribute to muscle cramps and spasms, the main ones being:

A number of other factors include working or exercising in high heat and humidity, inadequate blood supply, injury or muscle strain and excessive use of alcohol, drugs and medication.

Treating Muscle Cramps and Spasms

Muscle cramps and spasms will usually go away on their own but there are a few important steps you can take to decrease the severity and duration of them.

  • Stop the activity that triggered the cramp in the first place
  • Gently stretch the affected muscle or muscle group
  • Keep the affected areas moving with light activity and gentle massage
  • Continue to apply heat and massage to help promote blood flow

Preventing Muscle Cramps and Spasms

One of the most useful things you can do to help prevent muscle cramps and spasms is to work on improving your overall general health and fitness. Improving your cardiovascular fitness will improve the delivery of blood to your muscles, which will ensure that they have adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients to function properly.

Another key activity that will help to prevent cramps and spasms is stretching. Keeping your muscles loose and flexible will help to stop them from tightening up and cramping. Be sure to stretch the muscles groups that are most prone to cramping both before and after exercise or strenuous physical activity.

The other important activity that is very effective in helping to prevent cramp is ensuring adequate hydration and electrolyte replenishment. In general, you should be consuming at least 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water a day and more if you are involved in a strenuous physical activity or live and work in high heat and humidity.

If you are prone to muscle cramps and spasms, you should also look at increasing your intake of minerals and electrolytes. The minerals that are most important are Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium. Simply adding a small amount of mineral salt to your cooking, (such as sea salt or Celtic salt) will help to increase your intake of these important minerals.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • WALKER, B. (2007) Muscle Cramp & Spasm. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 44/ July-August), p. 3

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • WALKER, B. (2007) Muscle Cramp & Spasm [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni44a1.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Brad Walker is a prominent Australian sports trainer with more than 15 years' experience in the health and fitness industry. Brad is a Health Science graduate of the University of New England and has postgraduate accreditations in athletics, swimming and triathlon coaching. He also works with elite level and world champion athletes and lectures for Sports Medicine Australia on injury prevention. Brad can be contacted via his website at injuryfix.com

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic:

Stretching Stretching