Prevent Muscle Cramps
It’s finally summer! No more -30-degree Celsius weather and wearing heavy coats. Everyone has come out of hibernation! People are wearing flip flops while sitting on their decks drinking a nice cool beverage. People are also becoming much more active. As a physiotherapist, I love seeing people becoming more active. While exercise is one of the best things you can do for both your body and mind, in the summertime you are also more prone to that annoying Charlie horse while exercising. Muscle cramps are an involuntary muscle contraction. We do not always know the exact cause of these cramps but we do have some ideas of what can trigger them and how we can prevent them from occurring.
One common cause of muscle cramps is mineral depletion with lack of magnesium and/or potassium. If you suspect you may be deficient in one of these minerals you can talk to your doctor, a pharmacist, or even a registered dietician. Pharmacists can often recommend supplements and its important to tell them if you are on any other medications, so they can determine if there will be any drug interactions. A registered dietician can look at your current eating habits and recommend changes so that you are getting the required amount of minerals in your diet naturally.
Another common causes of cramping are dehydration. We are especially more prone to becoming dehydrated with the hot temperatures. Although being active is important, it means you will become dehydrated faster. As you sweat you will also start losing important electrolytes, including potassium, resulting in further mineral depletion. During the summer it’s important to drink at least the minimum 8 glasses of water a day and remember to drink extra especially when you are active. I often have to remind my patients that tea, coffee and alcohol does not count as a hydrating beverage. Drinking beer, coffee and even black tea is actually further dehydrating since these drinks are natural diuretics- meaning they make you urinate more frequently and thus lose more water. For every cup of tea, coffee and alcohol be sure to replenish with equal amounts of water. There are a lot of great apps on iphones and android phones for tracking water intake which are FREE. Although we have good intentions, sometimes we forget to drink water during a busy day and we a need a reminder; so pick an app and try it out!
Once you get a muscle cramp it will usually go away on its own in a few minutes but sometimes can they be debilitating especially if they prevent you from exercising. Try our suggestions above. But see your doctor if the cramping causes severe discomfort, they are associated with leg swelling, redness or skin changes, they are associated with muscle weakness, they happen frequently and they do not improve with self-care.
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