CAUSES – Muscle cramps are commonly associated with physical activity such as sports or activities that one isn’t accustomed to doing. It is possible that cramps may come during the activity or later, sometimes many hours later (at bedtime). Muscle fatigue from sitting or lying for an extended period in an awkward position or any repetitive use (typing) can cause cramps. Low blood levels of either calcium or magnesium directly increase the excitability of both the nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate. Muscle cramps can come from problems with circulation, nerves, metabolism, hormones, medications, and nutrition.
TREATMENT – If the muscle can be stretched, the cramps can be stopped. For cramps of the feet and legs, stretching can often be done by standing up and walking around. A calf muscle cramp, the person can stand a few feet from a wall and lean into the wall to place the forearms against the wall with the knees and back straight and the heels in contact with the floor. Another technique involves flexing the ankle by pulling the toes up toward the head while still lying flat with the leg as straight as possible. If you massage the muscle, you will help it to relax.
PREVENTION – It is always a good idea to stretch before and after exercise or sports. You should also do adequate warm-up and cool down exercises, to prevent cramps that are caused by physical activity. Good hydration before, during, and after the activity is important, especially if the duration exceeds one hour. You should try to replace lost electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium, which are major components of perspiration) by hydrating your body. Adequate calcium, magnesium, and potassium are important aspects of prevention of night cramps. Since vitamin E is thought to have other beneficial health effects and is not toxic in usual doses, taking 300 units of vitamin E daily can help prevent night cramps.