Muscle cramps are painful contractions within the muscles that happen to all of as at one point or another, whether it’s whilst sitting on the sofa or after a bout of exercise. When cramps hit it’s helpful to know how to deal with the problem so here I look at a number of natural ways to treat muscle cramps.
What are muscle cramps?
Muscle spasms are strong, painful and involuntary contractions of one or several of your muscles however, if this spasm is sustained it becomes known as a muscle cramp. This can occur in any muscle (although leg and foot muscles are perhaps the most common) and can last from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes.
What causes muscle cramps?
- Fatigue - as you get tired during exercise your muscle reflexes become less effective which can then trigger a cramp
- Injury - muscle spasm may occur as a protective mechanism following an injury as the spasm will try to minimise movement and stabilise the area
- Dehydration - sodium depletion has been associated with cramps and this normally occurs during dehydration
- Muscle strain - cramps are likely to occur when we put too much pressure on muscles, overuse them, or tear them during vigorous exercise
- Night cramps - abnormal nerve activity during sleep or even just remaining in the same position for long periods can also cause muscles to cramp
- Sitting too long in the one position – this can restrict the blood supply to the muscle causing cramp
- Magnesium depletion – not enough magnesium can also contribute to leg cramps as activity in the muscle tissue increases
- Varicose veins – people with varicose veins have a higher chance of experiencing muscle cramps. This is because the valve in varicose veins can cause a build-up of deoxygenated blood which makes the muscles more prone to cramping
- Tendon shortening – tendons connect muscle to bone and naturally shorten over time as we get older. If they become too short however, it can cause connected muscles to cramp
- Diuretics – these remove fluid from the body and are used to treat high blood pressure, heart failure, and some kinds of kidney disease. As diuretics remove fluids though, they can lead to dehydration and then muscle cramps.
Treat muscle cramps naturally
If you’ve ever complained of muscle cramps you may have been told to ‘walk it off’ or ‘give it a minute’ but when you’re in pain this advice isn’t all that helpful or, in fact, effective. As an alternative though, here are a few natural ways to treat muscle cramps.
Take regular breaks
Repetitive actions like writing, typing and even sitting can cause the muscles to cramp so it’s important to take regular breaks from these activities to allow the muscles time to relax. Plus remember, if you attempt to push through a muscle cramp it is likely to make the issue more severe.
If your body is not getting enough potassium, calcium or magnesium this can also contribute to muscle cramps because, as I already mentioned, a lack of these minerals increases the activity of the muscle tissues. So, including more of these things in your diet could ease muscle cramps.
There are, of course, a variety of foods that are rich in magnesium including pumpkin seeds, bananas, salmon and dark, leafy greens. However, to top up your magnesium levels a supplement may also prove beneficial.
Alternatively, you could try mixing A.Vogel’s Balance Mineral Drink sachet in water to provide your body with magnesium, as well as calcium and potassium.
Most muscle cramps can be reduced if the affected muscle can be stretched so if you are prone to cramping in a particular area, I’d recommend you practice exercises to stretch the affected muscles three times a day. Plus remember, stretching before and after exercising will help prevent cramps caused by vigorous exercise whilst nocturnal cramps can also be prevented by doing some simple stretching exercises before bedtime.
This is a tried and tested method when it comes to reducing cramp as it soothes the muscles and eases pain. To apply heat simply dampen a towel with warm water and hold it on the area for a few minutes. If you prefer though, you could take a warm bath instead which increases blood flow in your body and acts as a muscle relaxant.
Many professional athletes use acupuncture or cupping therapy to massage and release any tension held in the muscle tissue. Whilst this might not be possible for you to do every time you feel the onset of cramp, you could adopt a similar approach by massaging the area yourself. I’d recommend you do this with BetterYou’s Magnesium Oil Recovery Spray as this specifically targets muscles and joints and helps them recover after training and exercise. It can be sprayed directly onto the skin where it is absorbed easily by the body. However, what’s more, the spray also contains camphor, black pepper and lemon oils which help to soothe, relax and heal the muscles.
Atrogel Arnica Gel
Another 100% natural option that can be used to relieve cramps is A.Vogel’s Atrogel Arnica Gel. This works to reduce pain and stiffness in muscles, plus it is anti-inflammatory too. Therefore, whether cramps hits in your shoulder or your foot, Atrogel could help to reduce the problem.