Ever had that sudden and often painful spasm or tightening of your muscles? Your calf muscle gets a mind of its own or your toes decide they don’t want to be attached to your foot anymore and try to make a quick escape?
This could be CRAMP
What is cramp?
From time to time I have clients who experience this strong involuntary contraction or tightening of muscles, usually in the legs or toes. It can last for a matter of seconds or a few minutes before relaxing again and can be incredibly painful.
Why does cramp occur?
Experts are not entirely sure why cramp does occur but there are a number of common opinions:
Hydration: When we haven’t drunk enough water problems can occur. Electrolytes (nutrients present in the body i.e. sodium, potassium) help conduct nerve impulses throughout the body, which allows our muscles to contract. When the body loses enough water or electrolytes (i.e. sodium (salt), potassium through sweating for example), the nerve impulses from the brain to our muscles become deranged. These depleted levels can make muscles cramp.
Conditioning and fatigue: The less fit we are, the more we are likely to suffer from cramp. Our muscles are subjected to a much stronger force of contraction when we are unfit and begin physical activity. Therefore they can go into a state of protective spasm. When your body is poorly conditioned, we are more likely to experience muscle fatigue, which can alter spinal neural reflex activity. Overexertion depletes a muscle’s oxygen supply, leading to build up of waste product and spasm. When a cramp begins, the spinal cord stimulates the muscle to keep contracting.
Tense or tight muscles: Muscles are bundles of fibres that contract and expand to produce movement. If these fibres are tight they may not function properly.
Circulation: Poor blood circulation around the legs from conditions like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can cause cramping pain when walking as the blood can not sufficiently travel around the extremities (i.e. legs and feet) to provide oxygen to the muscles.
How to treat cramp when it occurs:
Drinking plenty of water. It’s your body’s natural lubricant and cooling system. Without it, your muscles will overheat and seize up.
Gently massage the muscle to warm, relax and lengthen the muscle fibres enabling them to work more efficiently and effectively.
Stretch the muscle to alleviate the tightness that is being experienced.
Rest the muscle once you have gently stretched and massaged it. Don’t start vigorous exercise straight away.
How can you avoid cramp:
Ensure you warm up and cool down sufficiently when exercising to ease your muscles into activity and relax them afterwards.
Make stretching part of your daily routine either on waking up or before going to bed. Simple yoga stretches will help to relax your legs and feet.
Maintain a good level of fitness to keep your muscles in good shape.
Drink plenty of water regularly and even try a good quality sports hydration drink when taking part in strenuous exercise to replenish much need electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) as these can be lost through sweating when exercising. Some experts are suggesting the consumption of pickle juice!!
Eat nutritiously – foods which are particularly good for cramp are high in potassium and can boost muscle function and protect the nervous system: bananas, salmon, dried fruits, avocados, greek yoghurt, cantaloupe melon, beans and lentils, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, broccoli), nuts and seeds.
Next week I’ll be looking at shoulder and neck pain. I often suffer with this myself and so do the majority of clients I see. It’s the single biggest issue I see on a daily basis. I’ll look at what causes it and how to help alleviate symptoms at home.
In June my focus will be on Summer Skincare: what type of products to use and what foods are beneficial to achieving a healthy glowing skin.
If there is anything you would like me to cover in my blog please do comment below or email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a comment on my Facebook page: Nicola Meir Holistic Therapies. I’ve written about lots of topics on there which I hope you have/will find useful.
Wishing you all a great day x