How to Prevent Cramps

Cramps are painful sensations caused by an involuntary muscular spasm.  They’re usually nothing to worry about as they generally appear after an intense physical effort, for example. But let’s get to know more about them as well as learn how to prevent cramps in the upcoming article.

Facts about cramps

Cramps can be caused by several different things, i.e. from insufficient oxygen to muscles or a lack of mineral salts or liquids.  They could also be due to bad posture or a prolonged effort, cold or abrupt movements.  Going to the gym and not stretching once your class is over could be another cause.  These slight muscular contractions can cause pain and discomfort.  It is quite common to suffer from a spasm while sleeping.  This could be due to a change in blood circulation to muscles.  If you go to bed immediately after eating, for example, your blood will move towards your digestive tract (primarily the stomach) and not to other muscles.

CrampsIf you experience an exercise-induced cramp, it is commonly said that this is due to excessive production and accumulation of lactic acid.  The glucose oxidizes with the oxygen in cells to produce energy.  In normal conditions, your body can perform this work.  But under prolonged physical exercise, or exercise that you’re not used to, this could be insufficient.  If the glucose does not have enough oxygen it turns into lactic acid, which is also not bad for the body.

Cramps are usually harmless and don’t require treatments.  Doctors say that there is no way to prevent them beyond avoiding exercise after eating or stretching after sports.  However, there are several “home remedies” for  those muscle spasms.  There really isn’t any clear reason for cramps (beyond what was said previously). But it is true that some situations can cause them, like for example, the effort of lifting a heavy object, not hydrating oneself properly with two liters of water a day, being out of shape or overweight, lack of electrolytes, like sodium, from an imbalances diet, a problem with blood circulation to muscles, high temperatures when exercising, improper technique during exercise, cold or lack of stretching before movements.

Cramps 3Any muscle could experience a spasm, but the most affected groups are: quadriceps (front part of the thigh), the ischiotibials (posterior part of the thigh), the the calf.

Advice for preventing cramps

Whenever you’re in the midst of a cramp, it’s good to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stop moving or exercising.
  • Gently stretch your muscle to reduce the pressure on it.  Keep the posture for a little while or however long necessary, until the cramping stops.
  • If you get a spasm in your calf, place your hand over the muscle and slowly rub up it, pressing with your fingers until reaching your knee.
  • If it happens in your quadriceps, keep standing.  Raise your ankle to your buttocks and move your heel and the upper part of your foot to stretch the muscle.
  • In regards to the ischiotibial you need to sit down and stretch your leg.  Do not bend your knee and try to bend forward to touch your foot.  Then gently massage the muscle.
  • Walk a little with slow steps.
  • Drink water or beverages with mineral salts so as to recover lost electrolytes or fluids.
  • Ice the area, especially if it is painful.  Do not forget to wrap the ice in a towel or a cloth so you don’t burn or damage your skin.  Slowly stretch to reduce blood flow and to help relax the muscle.

Home remedies for cramps

These natural tricks are fairly popular and can help you if you get a cramp:

  • Wrap the area with an elastic band to stop the pain, but not too tight because it could swell.
  • Drink Gingko Biloba tea every day.  Boil 3 tablespoons in one cup of water for 10 minutes.
  • Apply essential oils (like rosemary, eucalyptus, pine or thyme) on the affected area.  The heat could relax them.
  • Mix one tablespoon of vinegar and one tablespoon of honey in one cup with warm water.  Drink so that the calcium is correctly distributed through your body.
  • Boil one liter of water with one tablespoon of mustard seeds for 10 minutes.  Then bathe with them for 20 minutes, submerging your legs.
  • Drink one glass of water with 10 drops of bay leaf tea, twice a day.
  • Apply a cloth moistened with apple cider vinegar and arnica infusion to the area for 5 minutes.  Remove and place again if necessary.  This will remove the pain as it activates circulation.
  • Mix one tablespoon of bicarbonate in one glass of water and drink.  This home remedy for cramps is not recommended for individuals that suffer from high blood pressure or fluid retention.
  • Prepare a smoothie with one cup of milk, half a cup of plain yogurt, half a cup of orange juice and one peeled banana.  Drink every 3 days on an empty stomach.  The potassium in the banana will be very good for preventing cramps.
  • Pour one tablespoon of cumin seed in half a liter of water and let steep for one hour.  Soak a cloth in it and apply it to the affected area, using moderate friction.
Photos courtesy of Jon Candy, Steffy Wonder, Phillip Capper, FatooM Qoughandoqa, Erin Koch.