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Muscles contract either voluntarily through exercise and muscle use, or involuntarily during a muscle cramp. When a muscle contracts and cramps, it can cause persistent pain -- and might feel hard or bulging. Causes of contracted muscle cramps include overuse, dehydration, low levels of certain minerals, medications, poor circulation, pregnancy or metabolic disorders. If you experience persistent contracted muscles that do not ease with home treatments, contact your physician.
Stretch the contracted muscle to loosen and lengthen it. Stretches for loosening a contracted muscle vary, depending on where the contracted muscle is located. For example, if your calf muscles are contracted, perform a seated forward bend. Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your toes pointing toward the sky. Hinge at the waist and fold forward, lowering your torso toward your thighs. Stay in this position until you feel relief in your contracted muscle.
Massage the contract muscle to loosen it. Use your fingers and thumbs to gently knead and prod the muscle. Massage stimulates the circulation, increasing the blood flow to the area. Breathe deeply and evenly as you massage your muscles to help increase the level of oxygen in your body. Both improved circulation and oxygen intake can help ease muscle cramps.
Hydrate and rehydrate. Increase your intake of food and drinks that supply electrolytes -- which are minerals that help regulate bodily functions such as nerve reaction and muscle function -- and include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Sometimes it isn't enough to rehydrate your body with just water if you are lacking electrolytes. Drink water regularly throughout the day, but rehydrate with a sports drink or coconut water if you experience a contracted muscle. Alternatively, bananas and orange juice can also provide your body with essential electrolyte minerals.
Apply heat or cold to the contracted muscle. MedlinePlus recommends applying something warm, such as a warm towel or heating pad, to help relax the muscle when it first contracts -- and then applying an ice pack to further reduce the pain.
- If you experience muscle soreness after the muscle cramp has subsided, consider taking an anti-inflammatory pain reliever to reduce any pain.