A muscle cramp can be one of the fallouts of exercise, especially on hot days. Suppose for example, the muscle in your arm or leg suddenly—and painfully—knots itself into a tight fist. Cramps can also occur when you move around in bed or even when you're simply taking a nap.
A muscle strain is more serious, especially when it affects the muscles in the back. A strain involves injury not only to muscles, but also to ligaments, tendons, or blood vessels surrounding a bone joint. The injured tissue is either pulled, stretched, wrenched, or torn during physical activity (like when you took that flying leap across the room during your first dance class in thirty years!).
Treating Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are easy to fix and do not require emergency first aid. Treat them in this way:
- Stretch out the muscle as soon as you feel a cramp.
- Massage the knotted muscle with the heel of the hand for several minutes.
- Follow the massage with a warm bath, warm wet compresses, or a heating pad to provide soothing heat. This should release the knot.
Muscle cramps commonly affect the calf or the heel of the foot during exercise or team sports. If this happens to someone you're with, have him or her perform a forward stretch in which the cramped leg leans forward and the cramped foot is flat on the floor. Then massage the cramp while in this position.