If you have ever had muscle cramp strike, you will probably remember the shock it caused. Cramps and muscle spasms can creep up on us when we least expect it and stop us in our tracks. Whether it be an episode in the night, leaving you gasping in pain due to the leg or calf tension, or a sudden onset of cramp in the back causing you to bend over double, cramp can be unpleasant and is something many people experience. In this week’s blog we shine a light on why cramp may happen in the first place, along with some self-help tips you can try to ease the tension when they happen, as well as prevent the episodes occurring in the first place. What causes cramps? Muscle cramping happens when one or more of your muscles tense involuntarily. There are several triggers that have been associated to cramping, such as long periods of physical exercise or manual labour, deficiencies in minerals, and dehydration. Certain medical conditions have been linked to cramping also, such as nerve compression from the spine, some neurological conditions, and reduced blood flow to the area, along with diuretic medications1. If a cramping episode strikes, what can you do? It can be tempting to wait it out and grin and bear the pain, but if you’re able to, try and gently stretch the affected muscle. For example, if you have cramp in your calf when lying down, bring your toes up towards your shin, alternatively if you stand up slowly and move towards a step, place your toes on the step and let your heal drop back and down. Both stretches will target your calf muscle. Once the cramp has calmed, take a little walk which will help to reduce the tension further. Some people find applying some heat following an episode can create a soothing effect, so have the hot water bottle at the ready! What can you do to prevent cramps? Prevention is always better than cure, and the good news is there are 3 steps you can take to prevent general cramps from starting. Here are our top 3 tips to keep those cramps away: 1. Stay hydrated Drinking water throughout the day will help to keep your body working at its best and support the health of your muscles. Depending on your body size, amount of movement you do, the heat exposure and other factors like health conditions, will depend on how much water your body requires. A simple way to estimate your hydration is by observing the colour of your urine. If it is darker than pale yellow, you need to rehydrate2. 2. Stretch Dedicating time each day to do some gentle stretches can help to reduce the buildup of tension which can lead to cramps. This becomes particularly important if you have exerted yourself, whether it be through exercise or manual work. If you experience cramps at night in bed, take time to do some stretches just before you hit your slumber. 3. Nourish your body Your muscles work at their best when they have the right support. Minerals such as potassium and magnesium are key to help with your muscles relaxing and the good news is you can get these through your diet. Foods such as nuts and seeds (eg: pumpkin seeds, cashews, walnuts), leafy green vegetables (eg: spinach and kale) and fruits (eg: avocados and bananas) are brilliant sources. Some people also find supplementing with a high-quality magnesium supplement can be beneficial. Like any symptom, we would always recommend you try and get to the root cause of the issue. If your cramps are getting more frequent despite trying the above tips, you experience muscle weakness alongside your cramping, or have swelling, redness, or changes to your skin quality, then we would recommend getting assessed by a Chiropractor or other registered health care provider. Following a detailed assessment and dependent on the cause, chiropractic care can be a brilliant way to help to reduce cramps, muscle spasms, and tension in the body, and we would be sure to guide you appropriately with your concerns3. References 1. Harvard Health Publishing. (2021). Muscle cramps. Retrieved from Harvard Medical School: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/take-that-muscle-cramps
2. The National Academy of Sciences. Dietary References Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/6#102 3. Advertising Standards Authority. (2022). Retrieved from Advertising Standards Authority: https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/health-chiropractic.html The content of this blog is for educational purposes and is not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.