Cramp is a painful muscular spasm which usually affects the legs, feet and toes, although it can occur in the hands and arms.
What to look for
The pain can be extremely severe and may last for only a few minutes or be prolonged and repeated. It may affect a single muscle or a group of muscles. It is common in athletes and those who use groups of muscles for long periods of time. Night cramps are common to many people, particularly the elderly, and usually affect the calf muscles, which spasm painfully for no apparent reason.
When a muscle contracts it tightens a medium part of the fibres of the muscle for a short period of time. However, in cases of cramp a muscle or muscle section experiences continuous contraction without any relaxation of the muscle fibres. This leads to a build up of muscles waste products, particularly lactic acid, in the area. This causes the pain. Cramp incurred during sports activities can sometimes damage the muscle fibres as the player continues to put pressure on the affected area.
When to seek further professional advice
See your doctor immediately if you experience cramp in the chest which occurs during or after exercise. This may be angina.
Chiropractic: Many types of cramp respond to chiropractic treatment. A practitioner will not only treat the affected area but will also address the spine and neck areas.
Massage is very effective in relieving muscular cramps, particularly those which occur regularly.
Other Therapies include: Homeopathy, Acupressure, Yoga, Rolfing, Shiatsu, Colour Therapy, and Aromatherapy.
Massage or stretching the affected muscles usually helps to relieve pain and calm the affected area. Calf and toe cramp may be eased by putting pressure on the foot and toe and attempting to move around. Persistent night cramps can be eased by taking a dose of quinine at night. Keeping warm in bed will also help.
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