Lately I've been getting muscle cramps at the oddest times and in the strangest locations. Mostly in my behind or just below, but occasionally in my neck, my toes, and even my chest. I'm 37, female, and exercise regularly. I was getting night cramps in my calves, but those have pretty much disappeared since a doctor told me to drink Gatorade after I exercise. But these butt cramps are really annoying (and painful). Could it be a sign of some sort of nutritional/vitamin deficiency?
A Real Pain in the Butt
Dear A Real Pain in the Butt,
Cramping can be frustrating and, as you said, uncomfortable. Unfortunately, no one fully understands what causes muscle cramps. There are a number of factors that contribute to cramping such as dehydration, having low levels of electrolytes, pinched nerve, or straining or overexertion of a muscle. However, there are several different strategies you can utilize to help find some relief!
First, it’s possible that your muscles could be strained from physical activity. You could take a moment and think about your routine. Are you doing any specific exercises that stretch the muscles in your buttocks? If so, how often and for how long do you participate in these activities? If you think your physical activity routine is the cause of your cramping, you could try and change your regime to see if that relieves any of the cramping. Additionally, adding in some stretching routines before and after you’re physically active may also help resolve your muscle cramping.
Moreover, it's interesting that your nighttime calf cramps disappeared when you introduced a sports drink as a post-workout strategy. Perhaps that means you’re dehydrated or have an electrolyte imbalance, particularly an imbalance of sodium, potassium, or calcium. These imbalances can be due to excessive sweating, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, diet, or prescribed medications such as diuretics. One approach to address this might be to experiment with your eating plan — perhaps increase your salt (pretzels, olives, nuts, salami), potassium (bananas, oatmeal, potatoes), and calcium (milk, yogurt, fortified orange juice) intake to see if you notice any changes. In addition, aiming to stay hydrated is wise. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and especially in the hours leading up to a workout, may help reduce cramping. An easy way to check hydration is to notice the color of your urine. Clear, light urine reveals a more hydrated body than dark, orange urine.
If these suggestions don't work, your condition gets worse, or it's severe enough to interfere with your daily life, it's probably time to consult your health care provider.
Here's to putting your booty pains "behind" you!
Originally published Feb 10, 1995
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