How do muscle cramps work?


I know that cramps are the involuntary contraction of a specific muscle, but I want to know how that happens. What process causes them?

In: 20

Muscles are controlled by electrical signals from the brain, but a balance of electrolytes (sodium and potassium are the mains ones, but there are others) is required for those signals to function correctly. When the balance is not right, muscles either don’t contract properly or at all, or contract when they shouldn’t, which is a cramp. Essentially, a cramp is your muscle squeezing itself as hard as it possibly can, which is not how they’re designed to work and not pleasant.

Prolonged exercise can cause electrolyte imbalances, in particular you can lose potassium which is the main cause of cramps. Hence why eating bananas is “good” for cramps, since bananas contain a lot of potassium.

Cramps are the result of exercise that is not allowed to clean up after itself, and they are a taste of death. When you exercise, your heart rate goes up, and that moves blood through your body faster. That blood carries oxygen and stuff, but it also carries away the local byproducts of exercise in your muscles, and helps replenish stuff like electrolytes, which your flexors and tensors crave. If you stop moving without taking a minute to cool down, you might not allow your muscles and stuff enough access to moving blood and cleanup processes to deal with what’s there. After enough trash piles up without getting dealt with, you experience a little bit of what occurs a few hours after death.

Rigor mortis is what happens when your body’s muscles contract because they no longer have an oxygen supply, which is necessary for the creation of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is used to release the cross-bridges in your muscles that are used for contraction. By releasing those cross-bridges, ATP is responsible for relaxation.

Oxygen is necessary for you to be able to relax not just your mind, but also your body. So, take those deep breaths, because they allow your body to stave off those cramps. Every cramp is your body telling you what it’s like to die.


Stay hydrated folks

Imagine you’re riding a bike. In order to move you have to release the brakes and push on the pedals. A cramp is like trying to pedal a bike while the brakes are squeezed. It can be quite painful for one part of your body to start moving while the rest of the parts around don’t want to move.