Muscle Cramps

 

When I played volleyball in a weekly league, I used to get painful cramps in my feet and legs—especially when positioned in the back row where you have to squat to be ready to return serves.

lt was troublesome enough that I asked my doctor about it. “I can’t eat any more bananas!” I told him. (I had heard that a potassium deficiency causes muscle cramps, and eating bananas could help because they’re high in potassium.)

He laughed and said it’s probably not a potassium deficiency, but a signal that I needed more calcium. Every muscle contraction requires calcium. He recommended I take Tums—2 each morning and 2 each evening—as a calcium supplement. It worked!

How smart are our bodies?! They figure out a way to tell us when they need more calcium! Because if we don’t have enough calcium in our system, our bodies will take it from our bones. And that’s not good.

Important disclaimer: this is not meant to serve as medical advice! I’m not a doctor and I don’t prescribe anything, not even supplements. Some people would not like to take Tums if they don’t need it for its primary use of soothing upset tummies. Some people would not like to take Tums at all because it contains trace particles of aluminum. I think most nutritionists would recommend trying to get as much of the calcium we need as possible from the food and drinks we consume.

And calcium vs. potassium isn’t the whole story. These are two of the electrolytes—along with magnesium and sodium—that help keep our systems balanced. The electrolytes are charged molecules, and the positives and negatives do a dance across the cell membranes all day every day. If they get thrown off, it can interfere with muscle function (among other things). This includes cardiac muscle. I’m sure we’re all familiar with stories of someone drinking so much water, throwing their electrolyte balance so completely off kilter, that their heart stopped beating and they died.

According to WebMD.com, many things can trigger muscle cramps, including:
• Poor blood circulation in your legs
• Working calf muscles too hard while exercising
• Not stretching enough
• Being active in hot temperatures
• Muscle fatigue
• Dehydration
• Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
• A problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck or back

Also, some medications cause muscle cramps as an unfortunate side effect.

What can we do to relieve muscle cramps? Leg stretches can help. WebMD says:

“For a charley horse in the calf or a cramp in the back of the thigh (hamstring), try this stretch: Put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly. Or, sit or lie down with your leg out straight and pull the top of your foot toward your head.

“For a cramp in the front of the thigh (quadriceps), hold on to a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back toward your buttock.

“You can also massage the muscle, ice it, or try taking a bath with Epsom salt.”

Can muscle cramps be prevented? It’s a good idea to eat more foods high in vitamins, magnesium, and calcium, stay hydrated, and stretch before and/or after you exercise. MayoClinic.org says these steps may help prevent cramps:

• “Avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of liquids every day. The amount depends on what you eat, your sex, your level of activity, the weather, your health, your age and medications you take. Fluids help your muscles contract and relax and keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritable. During activity, replenish fluids at regular intervals, and continue drinking water or other fluids after you’re finished.
• “Stretch your muscles. Stretch before and after you use any muscle for an extended period. If you tend to have leg cramps at night, stretch before bedtime. Light exercise, such as riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime, also may help prevent cramps while you’re sleeping.”

If you’re having problems with muscle cramps that are alleviated by these self-care steps, ask your doctor about it. It will be interesting to learn what she or he recommends.

Sources:
http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/manage/ptc-20186098

Category : Blog &Health &Massage Therapy Posted on May 17, 2017

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