Muscle cramps can usually be identified by a sharp and prolonged feeling of pain within a muscle. Muscle cramps have been linked to dehydration, and therefore may be more apparent in hot conditions and during prolonged exercise.

The rest, stretch and drink approach can be applied to help alleviate pain, and recover the muscle to its full strength. When applied this basic first aid principle can help a person quickly recover.

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Rest

Once it has been identified that someone is suffering with muscle cramps it is important to get them to stop exercising / working. If necessary get the person to sit down or lie down when safe to do so.

Talk to the person and ask them to describe the pain. Cramps can have bursts of pain followed by a tightening sensation. If they remember over stretching and/or feel a dull ache then may have strained the muscle. Follow this simple guide in these situations.

Stretch

Stretching can help alleviate pain in a cramped muscle and return the muscle to its normal length. It is important to encourage light stretching in the affected muscle immediately after the rest phase. Encourage and assist stretching for 8-10 seconds intervals, and stop when the pain subsides.

Helpful hint - The first aider can stretch the quads, hamstrings and calves by applying downward force (gently) on the affected limb whilst the person is lying on their back

Drink

Because muscle cramps are linked to dehydration it makes sense to rehydrate the affected person. Sports drinks contain electrolytes, salts and sugars which can help repair the muscles that are cramping.

When not available standard fruit juices can have a similar effect. Water alone can be used to rehydrate a person, but you may consider adding some salt and sugar into the glass.

What next?

Ok so the person is at rest, stretched and rehydrated but what next?

The good news is that muscle cramps cause no long lasting damage and the person will go on to make a quick recovery. In the meantime it’s best to advise the person to avoid exercising for 24 hours and continue with light stretching if there is still pain within the muscle itself.