Cramp is caused by severe contractions of a single muscle or group of muscles over which you have no control.

The two main groups affected appear to be the elderly and the sports person. In the elderly, night time cramp in the lower limbs can become a major crisis. It is due to deterioration in the circulation to the legs. Whilst lying in bed, the circulation slows down in keeping with the bodyís, and particularly the legs, lessened demand for oxygen. However, there is a very fine line separating the demand by the leg muscles for oxygen at rest and the ability of the hardened and narrowed of the elderly to supply this oxygen via the blood circulation. this point can be reached in the early hours of the morning, often with the chill of the night air and insufficient bed clothes and suddenly the cramp appears.

The same thing happens to the young footballer or hockey player who forces him or herself to the limit on a cold winterís afternoon. In his case the arteries are too young and healthy but with the chill of the winterís afternoon, they spasm and with the demand for oxygen to the leg muscles increased by the dash down the side line there is a failure to supply oxygen and cramp suddenly sets in.

Salt lack can produce cramp and this can show up in the keen sports person who sweats excessively. Some people get relief with salt supplements such as one of the several popular after exercise drinks on the market. Salt tablets should not be taken as they may cause stomach upset which could put you off salt for life.

A lack of calcium is said to play a part in the cause of cramp in pregnancy and vitamin E may cure cramp in some people.

Elderly people who suffer from cramp should consult their doctor. Certain blood pressure tablets can produce cramp and after eliminating possible medical conditions you will probably be prescribed quinine which, taken nightly appears to be the best treatment for night time cramp in the elderly. There are other medications which will help the cramp in the legs experienced whilst walking.

Treatment for cramp in the case of the footballer or fitness fanatic consists of rest, stretching the muscles concerned and warmth in the acute stage. Adequate warm up periods and good fitness will help prevent cramp.

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