Cramps & spasms

Muscles cramps occur when a muscle suddenly goes very short and tense and you feel a sharp painful pulling sensation. Cramps often happen when a muscle is tired from physical activity. However muscles can cramp if the body is lacking certain minerals – for example calcium or sodium – or if you are dehydrated.
Muscle spasms are also when a muscle becomes painfully tight and short, but a muscle spasm can last for several days. Often a muscle spasm occurs if the demands on a muscle are too great to protect itself from being injured, or it may spasm to stop you from moving the area to protect a nearby structure from being injured. For example, if you
sprain your ankle, muscles in the foot and calf might spasm to stop you from moving the ankle and causing more damage. When someone gets whiplash, the muscles in the neck and shoulders respond in a similar way. And a spasm in the lower back can happen so that you are prevented from moving and causing more damaged to a trapped nerve.
Treating cramps
Methods for treating cramps depend on the individual. Some people can get rid of a cramp by stretching out the cramping muscle, others benefit from the muscle being held in a position where it is as short as possible while the muscle is compressed. If you are aware that dehydration or lack of a mineral salt are the cause of the cramp then slowly rehydrate, preferably drinking an isotonic drink. Some people respond to ice being placed on the cramping muscle.
Treating spasms
Since spasms often occur to protect the body, care should be taken when treating them.
Heat can relieve the pain from muscle spasms and help the muscles to relax.
Massage can also help to treat muscle spasms, but should not be used immediately following an injury, as the spasm may still be necessary to protect the body.
Information courtesy of Cole’s therapy & injury clinic

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