How to Stop Cramps

Stomach cramps are seldom cause for concern, though they can range in intensity from annoying to quite painful. Here's how to stop cramps.

how to stop cramps

Cramping and pain that increases with movement or coughing, and that does not appear to be caused by strained muscles, is more likely to be a symptom of a serious problem.

© Robert Kneschke |

Just about everybody at some point wants to know how to stop cramps. The condition is often the result of a digestive issue, like indigestion or an upset stomach. Women may experience cramping during menstruation while others may feel cramping during or after exercise.

On the other hand, cramping and pain that increases with movement or coughing—and that does not appear to be caused by strained muscles—could be a symptom of a serious problem. If your abdominal pain gets worse, lasts for longer than 24 hours, or localizes, you should seek medical attention. However, most incidents of cramping can be readily diagnosed and treated with home remedies.

How to Stop Cramps: Treatments to Try

So what can we do to keep cramping away? If you’re experiencing abdominal cramping, avoid citrus fruits. Cramping from indigestion usually is accompanied by symptoms like bloating, belching and gas, nausea, and/or an acidic taste in your mouth. This type of cramping often goes away after a few hours.

Over-the-counter medication for an upset stomach (or menstrual cramps) can help relieve discomfort and quicken your recovery.

The best way to avoid digestive cramping is to avoid food and situations that may cause it. Keep track of your foods and meals to help identify which ones might be related to your cramping. Other ways to prevent the problem:

  • Eat small meals so your stomach does not have to work as hard or as long at digestion.
  • Eat slowly. Take at least 30 seconds to chew and swallow.
  • Avoid foods with high levels of acid, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
  • Cut back on or avoid foods and drinks that have caffeine.
  • Quit smoking since it can irritate your stomach.
  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes. They can put pressure on your stomach, which can make food you’ve eaten move up into your esophagus.
  • Do not exercise with a full stomach. Work out at least one hour before your meal or an hour after you eat.

Originally posted in May 2016 and updated.

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Matthew Solan

Matthew Solan has served as executive editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch since 2016. He was previously executive editor for UCLA Health's Healthy Years and was a regular contributor to … Read More

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