Muscle cramps affect everyone, because everyone has muscles. If you use your muscles, or if you don’t use your muscles, they will cramp and spasm. I specialize in muscles. As a Chiropractor who specializes in trigger points, I work on cramped, spasmed, inflamed and pulled muscles every day.
I mention all of these characteristics together because they all occur together. In my exerpience, a muscle cramp is due to a minor or microscopic tear (or pull) of a muscle fiber. Recent evidence is backing this observation up.
When a muscle is cramping, there will be inflammation and spasm present due to a (usually microscopic) tearing in the muscle fiber. This is what happens when you pull, tweak, sprain, or strain a muscle.
It used to be thought that when a muscle cramps, it is because the body is dehydrated and the muscles are not getting enough electrolytes. This is not the case. As the body becomes more dehydrated through sweating, it is losing water much faster than it is losing electrolytes. Electrolytes become more concentrated in the body the more water the body looses.
Muscles cramp when they are pushed harder than the are used to. Usually the muscles that cramp are the ones that are working the hardest; they are the ones that are overused. For an athlete, they are the ones that are getting overused in a race situation or even in a daily situation. I commonly get cramping in my leg or quad muscles when racing 100 mile mountain bike races. This is because no matter how much I can train, I just can’t get the time to do multiple 8 hour training rides. My leg muscles will cramp during a race after 6 hours or so of hard riding and racing. The most overused muscles are the ones that cramp first.
I see many regular people who suffer from muscle cramps throughout their body. This is from not keeping the muscles strong and lose. Tight and weakened and muscles get tighter and more irritated from a repetitive motion like typing or sitting in front of a computer all day. Eventually they get so tight that they tear on a microscopic level and start spasming and cramping and become inflamed. At this point they will fall into a pattern of spasm and inflammation.
Restless Leg Syndrome is an example of this. Leg muscles get tighter every minute that you sit. If you sit at a desk all day and don’t exercise or stretch, then those leg muscles get tighter and tighter until they tear on a microscopic level and fall into a neurological pattern of spasm, inflammation and muscle cramping. Frequently I have treated Restless Leg Syndrome by working out the trigger points and then prescribing a protocol of stretching and exercising. If the patient can stick with the prescribe activity, then the restless leg symptoms go away. And they swill stay away as long as the person stays active and exercises.
Here is an article that further discusses reasons for muscle cramping:
Avoid muscle cramps and keep your muscles healthy, strong and pain free through proper eating and exercise. It is the Pain Free Way.