One of the most inconvenient and quite painful consequences of working out is the occurrence of muscle cramps. This occurs when the muscle suddenly contracts rather involuntarily on its own1.
This is highlighted by a hard lump or mass at the area where it’s painful. This is the contracted muscle. Muscle cramps occur for a variety of reasons. It can be because of muscle fatigue, muscle overuse, or even muscle strain. An often overlooked reason for muscle cramps is dehydration.
Thankfully, there are proven ways by which you can easily manage muscle cramps during workout.
Here are 3 ways to treat muscle cramps during workout:
1. Stretch the Muscle
Since the main issue in muscle cramps is that the muscles are contracted, meaning they are somewhat shorter than their normal anatomical length, one of the best ways you can treat muscle cramps is to stretch the affected muscle.
However, it is important to do it gently and carefully so as not to create more injury to the muscle.
If you’re suffering from leg cramps, you slightly bend your knees while putting your weight on the affected leg. If you cannot stand because of the pain, you can simply sit and extend your affected leg as far as you possibly can.
Reach for the toes of the cramped leg and pull the them towards you. This action will also pull the muscle running along the other side of the leg (the cramped muscle). This manoeuvre is also helpful if the affected muscles are those of the back thighs.
If the issue is cramps on the front of the thighs, then you can stand on the unaffected leg and pull the affected leg backwards, attempting to place your foot on your buttocks. You may want to stabilise your position by holding onto a chair.
Lightly massaging the affected muscle can also help relax the cramped muscle. The principle behind the use of massage in the management of muscle cramps is the stimulation of the nerve endings present in the muscles.
By carefully rubbing or massaging the affected area, one can slowly relax the cramped muscles.
However, do not expect the pain to magically disappear. It takes time before you will notice any significant improvements in the level of pain coming from the cramped muscles.
3. Apply Warm Compress
If you really want to treat muscle cramps during workout, applying warm compress should make the individual muscle fibres relax a bit. Heat has the ability to relax tissues while cold applications generally contract muscles.
It is for this reason that muscle cramps are best managed by the application of hot compress. This not only relaxes really tight muscles, but also promotes blood flow.
Since one of the potential reasons why there is muscle cramps is the presence of over-fatigue in muscles, improving blood flow can help provide oxygen and nutrients to these tissues.
The application of warm or hot compress is typically advised together with massaging of the affected area. When combined with careful stretching, this can help restore function in the affected muscle and assist you in returning to your workout.
1. Lawrence Z. Stern and Charles Bernick. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Chapter 53 Muscle Cramps, Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Boston: Butterworths; 1990.