Water is essential for all living things. However, sometimes due to a lower consumption or a higher loss of fluids, we tend to become dehydrated. This lack of fluid can have a lot of negative consequences on our bodies. Muscle cramps can be one of these consequences.
Muscle cramps are sudden, painful, and completely avoidable. It is thus an excellent idea to find out whether dehydration can be a common cause for your cramps. Before that, let’s get a brief idea of how to recognize a muscle cramp and how it is brought about.
Let’s jump right in!
How to Recognize a Muscle Cramp?
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Muscle cramps are sharp and painful contractions that can occur across a variety of muscles. These are most common in your calves or thighs. However, you can get some in your arms, hands, feet, or abdominal region. They can be identified by tenderness and as well as the firmness of the muscle in question. These muscle spasms are sudden and cause a sharp pain that lasts from a few seconds up to 15 minutes.
Common Causes of Muscle Cramps
There can be a multitude of causes that can trigger muscle cramps. To better understand this condition, we have below a brief list of these causes:
Overexertion of Muscles
Overexertion is most common in athletes, but it can be seen in others as well. When you overuse your muscles, whether while exercising or performing other strenuous activities, you may experience muscle cramps. These cramps may be worsened if the muscle has been previously injured or if it is held in the same position for a long time.
Low Levels of Required Minerals
This reason is related to your mineral intake. If your body faces a lack of essential minerals such as potassium, calcium, sodium, or magnesium, it can cause an involuntary contraction of muscles.
Excessive Loss of Fluids
Whether it is during exercise or sickness, an excessive loss of fluids can result in extreme dehydration. This loss is because you are losing a large amount of fluid along with essential electrolytes while sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Other medical conditions can induce muscle cramps. These can include pregnancy, hypothyroidism, or kidney problems. Some spinal nerve compressions can also bring about muscle cramps. Similarly, alcoholism is another common reason for muscle cramps.
Dehydration: Warning Signs
Dehydration occurs due to a loss of bodily fluids. It can be due to the lack of sufficient water consumption or losing a significant amount of consumed water. Excessive sweating, urinating, vomiting, or diarrhea might contribute to this. The most common sign of dehydration is thirst. Your body has many ways of letting you know that your fluid intake is not enough. Some of these are as follows:
One of the common tests to check whether or not you are dehydrated is to pinch your skin. If your skin bounces back to normal immediately, then you need not be concerned. However, for a dehydrated person, the skin might take some time to return to its normal appearance.
A common sign of dehydration can be dry or flushed skin. This is because a lack of water in your body keeps your skin from appearing plump. It also causes your skin to turn red quicker when exposed to the sunlight.
Human saliva is primarily composed of water. It is essential in keeping your mouth bacteria-free. Thus, a lack of water can facilitate an overgrowth of these bacteria. This overgrowth of bacteria can cause you to have bad breath.
Water plays a vital role in regulating nearly all of our internal systems. Dehydration can affect the normal functioning of our liver by decelerating the breakdown of glycogen. Glycogen is the substance responsible for producing energy from your food and making you feel full. An absence of this can thus cause a spike in your cravings for salty or sweet foods.
Dehydration headaches are a common phenomenon. These are most commonly seen in the form of hangovers but can be brought about by a general lack of fluids. Dehydration can also trigger your migraine. However, they are taken care of easily by regulating your fluid intake.
Can Dehydration Cause Muscle Cramps?
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Our body is over 60% water. It comes as no surprise then that fluids are indispensable in maintaining proper muscle function. Fluids help your muscles perform all their day-to-day tasks such as contracting and relaxing.
There have been several studies to determine how dehydration can affect your muscles. In this 2019 study, a correlation between the loss of electrolytes and muscle cramps has been studied. This study concluded that dehydration did, indeed, make muscles more susceptible to cramping. Some reasons why this occurs might be as follows:
Insufficient Blood Supply
When there is a lack of blood supply in your body, your arteries might constrict to prevent more fluid loss. This constriction will affect your overall blood supply, including the supply to your legs. An exertion of these muscles during this time can cause your muscles to spasm.
Lack of Minerals
A lack of minerals can be brought about by a lower consumption or by excessive loss of fluids. This loss might be brought about by the use of diuretics, sweating, or sickness. When your body has a shortage of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium, you can find yourself feeling lethargic. Lack of these electrolytes can cause a fluid imbalance and induce muscle spasms.
Tips to Prevent Muscle Cramps
If you are someone who regularly experiences muscle cramps, it is a good idea to look into some preventive measures. These spasms are unwelcome to all so here are a few things you can try to keep them at bay:
This tip is equally valid for preventing cramps as well as to provide relief during cramps. You can stand up and lift your heels. Doing this will put your weight on your toes and slowly stretch out your leg cramp. Back pain can also be caused by dehydration. You can perform regular stretching for your back, hamstrings, and legs once you wake up to keep these muscles in tune. This stretching can help prevent future muscle cramps as well.
Yoga can be a great regular activity to keep yourself in good shape. It can also help stretch your muscles and prevent easy cramping. Popular yoga positions such as the child’s pose can help adequately stretch out your back muscles.
After all the dehydration talks, this one seems obvious. Keep a glass of water on your bedside table. This will help you have easy access to water during nighttime. Similarly, you can also make it a habit to start your day with a tall glass of water. Doing so will help you be refreshed early in the morning. Always carry a water bottle to the gym or during other taxing activities.
Make sure you are getting your daily dose of minerals. You can ensure this by including leafy greens, bananas, and beans into your everyday diet. Eating food rich in magnesium, potassium, and sodium can ensure that there is no shortage of the electrolytes you need. As they say, eat your colors.
Much like any other cell in our body, muscle cells also require enough water to maintain a smooth day-to-day functioning. Not just water but also adequate glucose, potassium, calcium, sodium, and magnesium. Water is largely responsible for delivering all these minerals to different extremities.
Dehydration can cause your muscles to experience early fatigue. Similarly, it affects the bounce-back rate of these muscles during strenuous activities. Lack of proper flood flow can result in cramping of various body parts. Luckily, this can be prevented easily by making sure you are well hydrated. Similarly, you can take some electrolyte solutions to make sure you are getting the minerals that you need.
Table of Contents
- How to Recognize a Muscle Cramp?
- Common Causes of Muscle Cramps
- Dehydration: Warning Signs
- Can Dehydration Cause Muscle Cramps?
- Tips to Prevent Muscle Cramps