What muscle cramps can tell you about your health

Everyone's experienced a muscle cramp at one point. These spasms caused by involuntary muscle contractions are normal, but they can also be particularly painful. If they last for too long, it can hint at an underlying condition and should be addressed by a doctor. Let's take a closer look at what muscle cramps can tell you about your health and how to treat them effectively:

1. You overworked yourself

People understandably want to get things done around the house and in their jobs, but there's a point where you can push yourself too far. Muscle spasms in your leg, neck and back could be caused from strenuous or repetitive movements like cleaning, gardening or holding a baby, Reader's Digest stated. When doing these activities, muscles become fatigued and sore, causing spasms. Doing regular exercises can help strengthen these muscles, but it's also important to know your limits and when to take a break.

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Spasms in your back can reveal other problems.

2. Build up your back

Your back is made up of a variety of muscles that enable you to stand up straight, support and protect your spine, and extend your arms and torso. If these muscles are damaged or poorly developed, it can lead to musculature imbalances and long-term pain. However, back spasms can be difficult to diagnose. If spasms last longer than three days and are very painful, you might have a disk issue.

Of course, back spasms aren't always the result of something as serious as blowing a disk. If you slept with your neck in a funny position, it's possible to injure a thin strand of your back muscle, causing it to cramp up in order to protect itself. This makes it harder to turn your head but isn't dangerous. Stretching and massaging the area can easily help subside the pain and stop the spasms.

Working at a desk job might also be a significant cause of your back cramps. Repetitive motion fatigues the rhomboid muscles in the upper back and can affect your posture. Massaging the affected area with ice will relieve the spastic muscle and the pain. Be sure to take breaks from your activities and be mindful of your back.

"Foods with potassium, calcium and magnesium will help nervous system and muscular functions."

3. There's a nutrient deficiency

Food provides the basic building blocks to keep muscles healthy and preserve our overall wellbeing. Depletion of important minerals in your body can cause major muscle cramps, but ingesting the proper nutrients can help refuel and relieve the pain. NDTV noted that eating foods with potassium, calcium and magnesium will help nervous system and muscular functions like contraction and relaxation. Potassium can be found in dairy, bananas and citrus fruits; calcium in dark leafy vegetables, nuts and salmon; and magnesium in bananas, whole grains and yogurt. Making these foods a part of your regular diet will be a natural way to prevent muscle cramps and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Staying hydrated is another important nutritional consideration when it comes to easing and preventing muscle cramps. If your water level is low, it throws off your electrolyte balance. It's important to drink seven to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes while exercising. A sports drink can help replace lost electrolytes during more intense activities. Hydration will be key to ensuring your well being and keeping spasms at bay.

4. You have poor circulation

Cramps, particularly in your legs, could indicate that you have poor blood circulation. According to Easy Health Options, if this is the case, you'll likely experience spasms while exercising and the pain will get worse the longer you work out. Walking with your back in a slightly flexed position can help relieve the pain, but won't resolve the underlying issue. Taking in enough nutrients will help even if you have poor circulation to prevent muscles from cramping. Discussing poor circulation as a cause of spasms with a medical professional can yield treatment solutions for a happier, less painful experience.

Muscle cramps are a normal part of life, but they can happen for a variety of reasons and might indicate an underlying health issue. By understanding why spasms occur and how to treat them, it will be easier for people to self-diagnose and relieve their pain without seeking professional help.