All cramped up?

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MAINTAIN FLEXIBILITY Gently massage and stretch the cramped muscle
MAINTAIN FLEXIBILITY Gently massage and stretch the cramped muscle

Muscle cramps that arise due to exertion can be rectified easily

Thankfully, not all of us have experienced muscle cramps, at least not the kind that etch Oscar-worthy grimaces on cricket batsmen's faces in the middle of a run chase in hot weather. Very few things are more painful than a muscle involuntarily locked in spasm that refuses to relax.Cramps can last from anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes, and they most commonly involve the muscles of the lower limb. However, they can also involve any voluntary skeletal muscle. For example, the writer's cramp involves the small muscles of the hand.No one knows exactly why cramps happen, but who gets it and when is well known. The very young, the elderly, endurance athletes and the ill-conditioned are at greatest risk.

Common risk factors

Over-exertion is a common risk factor. Excessive exertion in hot weather, dehydration and salt loss are the perfect setting for cramps. The elderly on certain medications are also likely to be at risk for cramps.To lower the risk of cramps, drink an electrolyte-rich fluid at regular intervals during play in hot weather. This does `not' mean soft drinks. A fruit juice or even the freely available Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) formulated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is your best bet. Drink water at regular intervals even when you are not thirsty.

When cramps occur

Maintain fitness and flexibility even in the off-season for your sport. Lack of proper conditioning is an important risk factor, and even seasoned athletes tend to overestimate their level of fitness at the start of a new season or even before taking the field. Once cramps occur, the only thing to do is to stop doing whatever caused the cramps in the first place. Gently massage and stretch the cramping muscle. If the muscle is tender to touch, apply an ice compress. If it feels tight without much pain, apply a mildly warm hot water bottle to the area.Cramps that are severe, happen frequently, respond poorly to treatment and are not related to strenuous exercise may reflect an underlying disorder that requires evaluation. For example, muscle cramps may be seen in nerve irritation cased by spinal cord root compression seen in a number of conditions. RAJIV. M




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