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Ouch! What Could Be Causing Muscle Cramps in Your Limbs

Get to the root of the problem first to nix the pain.

Six potential causes and remedies of muscle cramps in the limbs.


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Exercising more than usual could be causing your muscle cramps. (Photo: pixolga / www.pixabay.com)

A painful and involuntary muscle contraction, or cramp, often rears its ugly head when you least expect it. But there’s no reason to suffer in silence. Here are six potential causes – and remedies – to help you stave off the ache. 

1. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Dehydration

Taking your workouts to the next level and upping the intensity? Good on you! But remember that when you work out, excessive perspiration and inadequate drinking can lead to a loss of electrolytes and essential minerals. This could explain why you have spasms even while resting.

To fix muscle cramps caused by dehydration: Sip about 250ml of electrolyte-balancing isotonic sports drinks every 15 to 30 minutes when you’re out on a long run. It’ll help to replenish fluid loss. See what our expert recommends to stay properly hydrated before and after exercise.

2. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Artificial sweeteners

If you’re trying to cut sugar consumption to lose weight or for health reasons, take note – especially if consuming foods that contain sugar substitutes such as aspartame. “If you’re intolerant to such sweeteners, you could develop cramps,” says Dr David Wong, orthopaedic surgeon at Raffles Orthopaedic Centre.

To fix muscle cramps caused by artificial sweeteners: Swop aspartame for stevia, which is a natural sweetener. Find out more on stevia and other sugar alternatives here. 

(Also read: How this marathoner stays in shape despite her sweet tooth)

3. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Peripheral arterial disease

Red alert if you have diabetes or high cholesterol levels. When plaque builds up and blocks the arteries that carry blood to your organs and limbs, cramping in the legs as well as buttocks may occur. “Folks with diabetes and/or high cholesterol levels are especially prone to this condition, and they often don’t get any relief from the pain even when they’re resting,” says Dr Wong.

To fix muscle cramps caused by diabetes or high cholesterol levels: Consult a doctor early. Depending on the severity, doctors may recommend anything from simple dietary changes and cholesterol-lowering medication to major surgeries that increase or restore blood flow to the affected limb, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

(Also read: How to manage your cholesterol levels) 

4. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Spinal stenosis

You start to experience cramps in the arms and/or legs when the narrowed spinal column, a characteristic of spinal stenosis, presses against its surrounding nerves. Other symptoms include numbness, weakness and pain in the neck, back, and limbs.

To fix muscle cramps caused by spinal stenosis: As the condition is associated with many causes and symptoms, see a specialist for proper troubleshooting. Treatment options include painkillers, physical therapy, and in serious cases, surgery.

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Other than eating healthily, getting two to four servings of milk is recommended for expectant mothers. (Photo: purple_zeppelin / www.pixabay.com)

5. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Calcium deficiency

It isn’t uncommon to hear pregnant women experiencing muscle cramps. During pregnancy, the foetus begins to absorb calcium and other minerals from the mother in order to grow. If not sufficiently replenished, the lack of calcium can cause nerves to lose the ability to send signals properly and trigger a spate of muscle spasms.

To fix muscle cramps caused by calcium deficiency during pregnancy: KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital recommends that expectant women get at least 1,000mg of the mineral a day. That’s about two to four servings of milk – but skip the organic and UHT milk. If you’re intolerant to dairy products, eat lots of other calcium-rich foods like kale, broccoli, and sardines. Supplements will also help.

(Also read: What to eat when pregnant or breastfeeding)

6. Muscle cramp? It could be due to… Venous congestion

Already taking calcium supplements during your pregnancy? All that extra weight a pregnant woman carries can add pressure to leg veins and affect blood circulation. This causes cramps, which typically intensifies during the third trimester.

To fix muscle cramps caused by venous congestion during pregnancy: Pregnancy-related leg cramps should subside once the baby is born. In the meantime, lessen the ouch by massaging aching limbs and engaging in low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming or pilates. Check out these classes and courses that you can do safely during your pregnancy.

Also read:

What You Need to Know About Salt and Sodium
4 Essential Vitamins & Minerals

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