Muscle cramps can be caused by a variety of factors, including overuse of a muscle, dehydration, muscle strain, or simply maintaining a position for a long period of time. Even the best-conditioned athletes can suffer from cramps due to heavy use of muscles and the dehydration that occurs with perspiration. Loss of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and calcium with perspiration can also lead to muscle cramps. Infants, the elderly, people who are overweight, and athletes are at the highest risk of muscle cramps.
To help prevent muscle cramps, it is important to do flexibility exercises before and after training to stretch the muscle groups most prone to cramps. Additionally, drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent muscle cramps. If cramps are severe, occur frequently, respond poorly to simple treatments, or are not related to obvious causes, such as intense exercise, it is important to see a doctor. When a muscle spasm occurs, it is important to stretch the affected muscle and massage it.
Applying a cold or warm compress to sore muscles at the first sign of a spasm can also help ease the pain of muscle cramps. To prevent muscle cramps from occurring in the first place, it is important to avoid or limit exercises that tighten muscles and cause cramps.