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Health Team

Stretch, stay hydrated to unwind cramps

Posted August 22

If you've ever had a charley horse—that odd pain in your calf—you've had a cramp.

Cramps can happen anywhere in your body at any time, even when you're asleep. Some people complain about cramps under their thighs, at the bottom of their feet or even on their ribs.

Muscles suddenly tighten up, and it can stop you in your tracks. There are several causes of cramps, but you can do some things to keep them at bay.

Experts with WebMD say one possible cause of cramps is not enough water, which leads to dehydration. Hot temperatures can cause you to sweat out minerals and electrolytes that help cells in your muscles work the way they should.

To prevent dehydration, keep water with you and sip it throughout the day, says WRAL Health Team's Dr. Allen Mask.

Medications can also cause muscle cramps. With statins, which are used to control cholesterol and diuretics, which help your body flush out fluid, cramping is a potential side effect.

Speak to your doctor if you have this problem after starting taking a new medication.

Poor blood circulation, as with narrowing arteries, could be another cause. If your cramps get worse when you walk, your muscles may not be getting enough blood, so speak to your doctor.

Cramps are common for women as they experience their monthly cycles. Over the counter pain relievers may help, but consult your doctor if they don't.

For kids, a growth spurt often leads to cramps.

It's where we get the phrase "growing pains," but they may actually be caused by too much activity. It's good to stay active with regular exercise, but too much all at once may be causing your cramps.

So, pace yourself to allow your muscles to get stronger so they won't cramp as easily.

If you get a cramp, Mask says to gently stretch or massage the muscle, or use a heating pad or hot bath to bring blood to the area to relax it.

If there is pain with swelling associated with a cramp, you can use an ice pack and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen.

Make stretching a habit, Mask says, to help prevent cramps. Muscles are made up of a bunch of fibers that get smaller or bigger when you move your body.

If your muscles remain loose through regular stretching, they'll move more easily and cramp less.

Diet also plays a big roll, Mask says. So, include more colorful fruits and vegetables, which are rich in electrolytes and great food for the muscles. Leafy greens and bananas are also good choices.

If cramps are a common problem for you, it could be a more serious problem, so be sure to speak to your doctor.

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