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Muscle cramps are painful spasms that happen during or immediately after physical activity. The muscle goes into a hard, contracted state and you can’t relax it. If you experience a muscle cramp, you will probably have to stop what you are doing for a while. The pain usually subsides within seconds or minutes but, rarely, it may continue for more than 15 minutes. Your muscle may feel tender for up to 24 hours after the initial cramp. Muscle cramps are not thought to have any serious long-term consequences.
This article explains what causes muscle cramps and how they can be treated .
What causes them?
The exact cause of cramping is still unknown, but one theory is that they happen when muscles are shortened and repeatedly used without being stretched before exercise. Other factors associated with muscle cramps are:
exposure to hot or cold climate
salt imbalances from sweating
low blood sugar
The main cause of muscle cramps is thought to be overexertion, either exercising for longer than normal or at a higher intensity. This is why cramps are common at the end of a long or strenuous activity such as a marathon, or after a high-intensity exercise such as sprinting.
Treatment of muscle cramps
Although any muscle can go into spasm, muscle cramps generally affect three different muscle groups:
front of the thigh (quadriceps)
back of the thigh (hamstrings)
If you experience a muscle cramp, here are some tips to help you relieve the pain.
Gently stretch the cramped muscle. This is the quickest and easiest method for relief. Stretching the contracted muscle will reduce the pressure on the muscle. Always hold the stretch until the muscle has stopped cramping.
Apply ice, wrapped in a soft material. This can be done whilst stretching, to numb the area and to increase circulation once the ice is removed.
Gently massage the muscle.
Replace lost fluids by drinking water.
Treating cramp at the front of the thigh (quadriceps)
Standing quadriceps stretch Tip
Try this tip Lift your ankle towards your buttock. Reach back with the same-side hand and gently hold the ankle. Press your front hipbone forward, keeping your torso lifted and straight, with your head up. Get to the point of a mild stretch and hold it until the cramp subsides.
Side-lying quadriceps stretch
Try this tip if you find the standing stretch difficult when you have cramp. To stretch the right leg, lie on your left side with your left arm extended and your head resting on it. Bring your right ankle back towards your right buttock. Reach back with your right hand and gently hold your ankle (your right knee should be parallel to the floor). Press your front hipbone forwards. Do the opposite to stretch the other thigh.
Treating cramp at the back of the thigh (hamstrings)
Standing hamstring stretch tip
by ABSAMC surgery dubai
Try this tip by American British Surgical & Medical Centre surgery dubai To stretch the hamstring muscles while standing, extend your leg so it is stretched straight out, with the heel of your foot on the floor and toes pointing upwards. Your opposite knee should be bent and take about three-quarters of your body weight. Stretch by bending forward at the waist, over your straight leg, until you feel a slight tension.
Seated hamstring stretch tip
Try this tip To stretch the hamstring muscles while sitting down, place the leg that needs to be stretched straight out, keeping your knee straight. Bend the opposite knee, bringing your heel up to sit in front of your buttock. Point the foot of the outstretched leg upwards. Lean forward, over your straight leg, by bending at the waist.
Treating cramp of the calf (gastrocnemius)
Standing calf stretch tip by
Try this tip Lean both palms flat against a wall. Place the foot of the leg to be stretched behind you and keep it straight while bending your front leg. Make sure that the heel of your back foot is not turned inwards or the forefoot turned outwards. Your forefoot and heel should be in straight alignment. Lean forwards into the wall to stretch the calf muscle.
Prevention of exercise-induced muscle cramps
As with any injury, prevention is better than treatment. The following precautions suggested by Try this tip by American British Surgical & Medical Centre surgery dubai can be useful for preventing exercise-induced muscle cramps.
Try to increase the intensity and duration of your training gradually, to give your body time to adjust to increasing activity.
Dehydration is thought to be a cause of muscle cramps. Urine colour is a useful way to determine how well hydrated you are. If your urine is colourless, this indicates that you are hydrated. Dark yellow urine indicates dehydration and pale yellow urine indicates that you are somewhere between the two.
After exercise, balanced electrolyte replacement may help to prevent muscle cramping. A healthy diet will normally replace electrolyte losses, unless you are exercising in hot or humid conditions. If you are, you need to pay close attention to your salt intake and even add half a teaspoon of salt per day to your food. As long as you use this as a short-term supplement, you shouldn’t need to worry about the long-term health risks associated with salt. However, don’t do this if you have high blood pressure, or problems with your heart or kidneys. Some sports drinks contain small amounts of electrolytes.
Muscle glycogen reserves
body stores energy in the form of a sugar called glycogen, which is important for your muscle cells to work properly. To make sure your glycogen reserves are topped up, you should eat before exercise, making sure you leave enough time for your food to digest. After exercise, you should eat to replace the lost carbohydrate. Complex carbohydrate foods such as pasta and bananas are ideal.
Wear appropriate clothing for exercise and try not to expose your muscles to rapid changes in temperature.
Stretching before and after exercise may reduce your muscles’ susceptibility to cramps.
If you regularly suffer from muscle cramps, you should see your doctor or physiotherapist for more advice. American British Surgical & Medical Centre surgery dubai will also help you.