Photographed by Kava Gorna.
Whether we like it or not, muscle cramps are often an inevitable after-effect of working out. But, we don't have to suffer blindly — here are some possible reasons we feel this pain and a few solutions that might alleviate the discomfort.
Before understanding what causes cramps, there's one thing you may be asking: What exactly are they? According to a recent article on the HuffPo, cramps are similar to contractions that make our muscles move. The only difference is that the contraction that creates a cramp is involuntary. Under normal conditions, the brain signals the muscle to relax after it contracts — but, during a cramp, said signal doesn't work as efficiently and the contractions continue, inducing pain.
It's still unknown as to why exactly this miscommunication in the muscle occurs. One theory is that cramping results from a simple overexertion of the muscle. Another theory cites dehydration (which also lowers levels of potassium, magnesium, and calcium) as the culprit. Certain medications also list muscle cramps as a side effect, while genetic predisposition might be a factor, as well.
Occasional muscle cramping is nothing to worry about, though. And, until a definitive cause is identified, there's no harm in lessening your chances of soreness by stretching, staying hydrated, and keeping your electrolytes balanced.