Cramp is a sudden and very unpleasant experience when it happens, that sharp feeling shooting through the leg or feet is never welcome. Since it’s often unexpected, it may seem like it’s also inevitable. But there are things you can do to both alleviate the severity and reduce the frequency of cramp.
What Causes Cramping?
Before looking at a how to counteract cramp it’s worth looking at what causes it to better understand the reasons for each method of helping alleviate it.
A cramp is when the muscle becomes slightly shorter and tighter very suddenly, causing a painful spasm within that area. It could happen due to being related to one of the following reasons:
- Getting older
- Over exertion through exercise
- Medication that lowers cholesterol or blood pressure
- Lack of hydration
- Liver disease caused by alcoholism
- Later stages of pregnancy
Some cramps are also a total mystery due to the broadness of potential causes and can be seemingly spontaneous, such as when sitting stationary.
How to Alleviate a Cramp
Although the vast majority of cramps will eventually subside by themselves the longer lasting ones can become very painful and tiresome. If you’re trying to relax the muscle unsuccessfully you can use stretches and massage to help the process. It may feel uncomfortable to touch the cramping area, but gently applying pressure in the right spot can have a positive effect.
If you are still feeling some remnants of the cramp then it may be wise to take some over the counter painkillers. Paracetamol or ibuprofen won’t work during the ‘peak’ of the cramp as they take too long to set in, but they can help ease any pain or tenderness from the aftermath.
Preventing Cases of Cramp
Of course, in an ideal world you’ll be able to prevent cramp altogether. Although there’s no way to guarantee that cramp will never happen there are things that you can do to help reduce the frequency that they might occur. The main way to do this is by incorporating stretching into your daily routine. One useful exercise is this calf stretch:
- Place your hands against the wall with arms extended and feet flat
- Lean forward into the wall with feet still flat until you feel your calves stretch and hold for 2-3 seconds
- Return to original position
- Repeat for five minutes three times a day – once before bed.
If you see a reduction in the frequency of cramps you can reduce the amount you do this exercise. However, if you get cramp that causes swelling or disturbs sleep then see your GP. Additionally, if you get cramps that last in excess of 10 minutes or have begun after suffering a wound on your leg then see your GP as soon as possible.