Cramp is a temporary involuntary and painful contracture of one or more muscles.
It is common in the lower limb; the most commonly described is that of the calf. Sometimes the hard and painful muscle makes a “real ball” (on the location of the cramp).
But the cramp does not last long, giving way spontaneously or after massages. In the majority of cases cramps have no pathological significance.
They are common to the insufficiently trained amateur sportsman who fails to warm up gradually. They also occur in experienced sportsmen and women during an inappropriate, prolonged or poorly dosed effort.
The cold makes it easier for swimmers to develop cramps, which can be dangerous if the water is too cold.
On the other hand, humid heat causes cramps in both the athlete and the strength worker. Tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, all promote cramps during effort because these stimulants increase muscular tiredness by delaying the elimination of metabolic waste.
Common are the cramps linked to the maintenance of an abnormal or tiring attitude. Physical overexertion can lead to moderate cramps affecting the entire skeletal musculature that can last for several days. In pregnant women, nocturnal cramps in the calves or soles of the feet occur quite often during the second trimester of pregnancy.
Certain drugs, industrial or agricultural toxins, or even the juice of certain plants (honeysuckle, broom, lupine) can be responsible for cramps.
Signs of a condition
Frequent, intense and disabling, cramps can be one of the signs of a neurological, muscular, metabolic (drop in blood potassium through vomiting, diarrhea) or vascular (phlebitis, varicose veins) condition.
The aches and pains of effort
In the untrained athlete, aches and pains are related to vigorous exercise. The muscles concerned become hard and painful. These aches and pains can also occur when training becomes overtraining. They usually appear after 12 hours, intensify the following day and gradually disappear in 2 to 4 days. They are due to the accumulation in the body of waste products (fatigue metabolites) resulting from muscular effort. However, aches and pains are not only the prerogative of sportsmen and women. Any sedentary person, who during weekends or holidays indulges in the joys of field work or DIY, knows what aches and pains mean.
Signs of an ailment
Aches and pains also correspond to a sensation of pain and fatigue generally felt in the back, progressing towards the limbs, accompanied by a loss of appetite, general malaise and fever. These feverish aches and pains herald the onset of various infectious diseases (e.g. influenza). Aches that persist and turn into stiffness are a sign of serious problems (stiff neck in meningitis).
In children, aches and pains are not always due to growth. If they persist, consult your paediatrician.
What not to do
Don’t go beyond your current physical capabilities and don’t swim in water that is too cold.
Do not abuse stimulants (tea, alcohol, coffee) or tobacco.
Do not use diuretics for weight loss without medical advice.
What to do
Warming of painful muscles (ordinary heat).
Massages, contraction of the muscles opposite (antagonistic) to the painful muscles.
You can also use muscle relaxants and muscle relaxants.
Drink enough fluids (to better eliminate metabolic waste products), especially if you practice a sport or an intense activity in a hot and humid atmosphere.
Eat a balanced diet. Modern life often leads to an unbalanced diet. This leads to a lack of vitamins, especially vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin E and PP. In case of extreme heat, if you exercise for a long time (e.g. cycling), consume salt (through food and water) and dried fruit (apricots, prunes, dates, bananas) rich in potassium.
To sleep, elevate your feet about 20 centimetres to promote better circulation and avoid night cramps.
In case of frequent, unexplained cramps or cramps occurring during a drug treatment, consult your doctor.
Taking aspirin leads to a rapid reduction in pain, especially in the case of feverish aches and pains.
Any unusual physical exertion should be started gradually and after warming up.