Have you ever had a muscle cramp? Sometimes, right? Let's try to understand muscle cramps better.
When a muscle or a group of muscles in the body contract involuntarily, it is called a spasm. When a spasm lasts for some time and is sustained, we call it a cramp. What are the types and causes of muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps or, more accurately, "skeletal muscle cramps" can be categorized into four major types:
When an entire muscle or a muscle group cramps together, they are defined as true cramps. These are usually due to the vigorous use of muscles and muscle fatigue caused by performing an activity that one is usually not habituated to Sports injuries and activities involving hard labor are good examples of true cramps. Rest cramps are also true cramps. These are very common, especially in older adults. Because of staying at rest, the body reacts by having a rest cramp. Dehydration also causes true cramps.
Vigorous activities tend to cause fluid loss from the muscles and that is why it is important to keep the body hydrated adequately at all times. Low blood calcium and magnesium are also some factors that result in true cramps.
The name tetany comes from the effect of the toxin named tetanus on the body's nerves. First, all of the nerve cells in the body are activated. Then, this activity stimulates the muscles. This results in a tetany cramp. Tetanic cramps are sometimes not very different from true cramps. There are similarities in the causes and symptoms.
A prolonged state of shortened or tightened tissue is defined as a contracture. These are more rare forms of cramps because these usually don’t really go away. The closest example of contracture is the feeling of tightness in the body parts when one starts to exercise initially. Now, imagine that the feeling of tightness is not gone and lingers on. That is a contracture. There are many causes for contractures, including nervous disorders, inflammation disorders, trauma, and inherited disorders, such as muscular dystrophy.
In this form of cramps, the muscles that are not needed for the intended movement of a particular body part, are stimulated to contract. Dystonic cramps do not occur as commonly as true cramps. The most common example of dystonic cramps is a writer's cramp (handwriting), typing, or playing a musical instrument. In all these activities, one is performing a repeated task with the same group of muscles.
This leads to fatigue that leads to some muscles that work in the opposite direction of an intended movement. In other cases, the body tries to exaggerate the movement in the direction of the intended movement
As with all things related to the body, change is slow and steady. So whether you are embarking on a new fitness routine, or a sport makes sure that you set a comfortable pace, to begin with, and keep your body hydrated. Make sure you perform some basic amount of exercise -especially body stretches as they warm up the muscles.