The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons defines a muscle cramp as an involuntary and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. All muscles work in pairs – an agonist and antagonist. In order for them to work properly, as one muscle (agonist) contracts, the other (antagonist) relaxes to allow a smooth, controlled movement. If the antagonist muscle doesn’t loosen up properly, cramp develops. Sometimes all it takes is the slightest movement that shortens a muscle to trigger a spasm.
Common causes of muscle cramps include: overuse of a muscle, dehydration, depletion of salt and minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium, muscle strain/injury, or simply holding a position for a prolonged period of time.
They can be solved by stretching the muscle and when that cramp is in the foot or leg, this can be done by simply getting up and walking around a bit. Alternatively, you want to try and gently stretch the muscle away from the position of discomfort and hold it there until the cramp goes away.
You can also massage your affected leg or foot by rubbing it gently to ease the muscle tension. Massages also increase blood flow to the muscle, thereby relieving cramping and reducing soreness.
You can also try applying hot or cold compresses to the area. Rubbing ice along the affected spot, or taking a warm bath or shower, can relax the unpleasant sensation and ease inflammation.
Because dehydration can play a big part in cramp, it's important to increase your fluid intake.
Wearing the right shoes could also help reduce the amount of times you get the dreaded pains. Make sure you are wearing suitable footwear when exercising that fit well and support your feet. Steer clear of high heels or shoes with a narrow toe box everyday – keep them for special occasions.
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