A cramp is a painful and uncontrollable muscle contraction. It is distinguished from a contraction that lasts for a long time. Cramps often occur during exercise or just at the end of it, and relate mainly to skeletal muscle of voluntary control, primarily the muscles of the limbs, especially the legs. It occurs suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes before disappearing without any further effects. It is due to the overly intensive stimulation of muscles, coupled with an accumulation of certain molecules, especially calcium, causing the excessive excitability of the muscle. It is favored by overly intense muscular effort, inadequate heating, poor hydration and lack of stretching at the end of the activity. The majority of these contractions are therefore manifested in the context of stress, but they can occur more rarely without any stimulation, even at night. Cramps can also be part of specific diseases affecting the muscles or nerves attached to these muscles.
A muscle cramp is characterized by:
- the sudden onset of pain in one or more muscles;
- the muscle appears to be contracted upon palpation, and stress increases pain;
- the patient is relieved by stretching the muscle;
- pain spontaneously resolves itself upon discontinuation of the stimulation, after a few minutes at most.
A cramp occurring in a sporting context, which is most often the case, is easily diagnosed in the context of significant effort, especially when predisposing factors are identified such as fatigue, physical intensity, heavy heat and a lack of hydration. The individual himself often recognizes a cramp. No further discussion is necessary if the pain does not continue, and further consultation should be considered only when the frequency of cramps is abnormal.
To relieve the cramp, just stretch the contracted muscle after stopping the physical activity in question. Hydration and soft use of the muscle for a few minutes after the pain stops usually prevents the occurrence of a new cramp. If the cramps are caused by an identified disease, taking care of the latter should reduce their frequency of occurrence.
To prevent cramps, it is important to stay hydrated during or before major physical activity. Athletes should pay particular attention to not overheat. After the activity, stretching sessions should be done, with particular attention for the muscles used intensely.
Original article published by
. Translated by Jeff