Muscle Cramps: Learn to Treat Them at Home
Muscle cramps are an involuntary spasm or contraction of the muscles. They’re normally very painful and can last for between a few seconds and several minutes. It’s possible to have more than one muscle cramp at the same time.
You can suffer cramps in pretty much any muscle. The most common muscles to suffer from cramps are the calves, thigh muscles, as well as muscles in the feet, hands, neck, and abdomen.
In this article, we’ll talk about muscle cramps, their causes, symptoms, prevention, and some really useful tips.
Causes of Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps are caused by the hyperexcitation of the nerves which stimulate the muscle. In turn, this is caused by:
- Vigorous physical activity (the cramp can occur after or during physical exercise).
- Dehydration (an important cause for older people and people who use diuretics).
- Pregnancy (generally, these cramps are caused by low levels of magnesium).
- Electrolyte conditions, mainly a depletion of calcium and magnesium.
- Bone fracture (as protection, the muscles around the injury contract involuntarily).
- Metabolic changes such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, alcoholism, and hypoglycaemia.
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease, or primary muscle diseases (myopathies).
- Venous insufficiency and varicose veins in the legs.
- Long periods of inactivity (sitting in a poor posture, for example).
Preventing Muscle Cramps
To prevent muscle cramps, you should always do plenty of stretching before and after any physical exercise. This is especially true if you are quite sedentary. It’s also important to make sure that you’re well-hydrated beforehand, during, and after exercise, as well as avoiding exercise on very hot days.
Many people suffer from night cramps, mainly in the legs and feet. These are also called nocturnal idiopathic cramps. Normally, these people have a family history of cramps and it is not currently known what causes them.
If you suffer from these cramps, we recommend a stretching routine 15 minutes before you go to bed. We also recommend opting for foods that are rich in calcium and magnesium, keeping well-hydrated throughout the day, and keeping active.
Practical Advice for When You Get Cramps
Stretching is the best way to prevent cramps, particularly cramps in the legs. However, it’s important to point out that this won’t make a difference overnight. You need to have spent a few weeks stretching every day so that the muscle gains more resistance to involuntary contractions.
Frequent stretching and good hydration resolve things for most people who suffer from idiopathic cramps.
The best way to control how hydrated you are is by observing the color of your urine. If you’re very dehydrated, it will take a strong yellow color, as well as a strong smell. On the other hand, if you’re well-hydrated, your urine will be clear and odorless.
Natural Remedies and Advice
Good levels of potassium in the body help to prevent muscle cramps. Fruits such as kiwis and bananas are particularly rich in this vitamin. They’re an excellent prevention remedy as well as helping recovery.
What Should You Do?
- Eat a banana before doing any exercise.
- Or, drink a banana smoothie.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an excellent remedy for muscle pains since it helps circulation as well as being a toner. It can be applied externally.
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (30 ml)
How to Use
- Apply to the area where you regularly suffer from cramps. A few light massages should be enough, then leave to dry.
Arnica flowers are used to treat bruises, arthritis pain, and stiff limbs. It’s possible to make an infusion using these flowers, soak a cloth in the infusion, and apply to the affected area.
- 1 tablespoon of arnica flowers (15 g)
- 1 cup of water (250 ml)
- Pour the cup of water into a pan and add the arnica flowers.
- Bring the water the boil and then turn off the heat. Leave it to rest for 5 to 7 minutes and then pour into a cup and drink.
- Another option is to use a cloth soaked in the infusion.
You can relieve the pain by rubbing the affected area with light circular motions. There are also anti-inflammatory and analgesic ointments and salves which athletes use. These help to reduce the pain, relax the muscle, and improve circulation.
How to Use
- Apply massages to the affected area using light circular motions.