Pain or aching in the muscles or the tendons (the flbrous cord of connective tissue that attach muscles to bones) is a common problem.
Cramp: The cause of a cramp in the leg is not completely understood. It is thought that a chemical imbalance within the muscle may be responsible, resulting in excessive contraction and pain. Other possible causes include a loss of salt, potassium and magnesium, which can occur through excessive exercise, a bout of diarrhoea or alcohol or drug use. During pregnancy muscle cramps are more common.
In the feet, cramping is usually the result of over-stretching your foot; in your calf muscles it may be overexertion; in your hands and wrists it may stem from a constant repetitive movement. The problem may be avoided by warming up your muscles before exercise and cooling down afterwards. Hydration with adequate fluid intake is helpful in preventing cramps.
Once a cramp strikes, massage the muscles until the pain subsides, usually in a few minutes. Regular night cramps maybe treated by a prescribed drug containing quinine or an over-thecounter remedy. Recurrent cramps in the legs, especially when walking and relieved with rest, should be investigated by a doctor. They may be a sign of inadequate blood supply to calf muscles,known as intermittent claudication.
Strains:The usual cause of a strain in a muscle or a tendon often called a “pull”—-is an excessive demand on the tissues as a result of unusual movement, often after periods of inactivity or a result of an injury or trauma. The degree of damage caused varies from a simple over-stretching of the fibres to a tear in them. In response, the muscle contracts or even goes into spasm to protect the damaged tissues. This disrupts the blood supply and alters the muscle’s internal chemistry, which results in pain.
Immediate treatment is by RICE (see box opposite). If muscles and tendons aredamaged, physiotherapy involving. massage, friction techniques and ultrasound may be necessary. When exercising, gentle warm-up and cooldown routines before and after help prevent the problem, as does correct posture and a conscious effort to make movements flow.
Sprains Ligaments are bands of fibrous tissue that support and stabilize joints by binding together the bones that they link. In the ankle, where the fibula (the outer bone of the leg) meets the talus (an inner bone of the foot), there are three ligaments. Many common accidents in which you trip or miss a step can cause the joint to lose its stability and twist inwards, resulting in a sprained ankle. The torn flbres bleed and become inflamed, and the muscles in the area go into spasm to prevent any further damage. If you suffer a serious sprain, treatment usually involves application of ice, support from elastic bandages and ultrasound. In some cases, ligaments that have been badly torn may require surgical repair.