Plagued by sudden, random muscle cramps? Here’s some common causes of muscle cramps, and how to stop them.
Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions of certain muscles in your body. While they most commonly occur in your legs, feet, and calves; they can plague any muscle that is having trouble relaxing.
Some examples of pain caused by muscle cramps include lower back pain, menstrual cramps, and aching calves. This type of pain is different from the pain of a pulled muscle, which will come on suddenly from activity and possibly start to swell. Also the pain of a pulled muscle will usually stick around much longer than a muscle cramp.
Most cramps are not a danger to health. Although they can be very uncomfortable, cramps are rarely a sign of a dangerous disease.
4 Common Causes of Muscle Cramps
1. Electrolyte & Body Fluid Imbalance
One of the most common causes of muscle cramps is electrolyte imbalance.
Electrolytes are natural chemicals such as calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride, that are used by your body for nerve signaling, regulating blood pressure, and maintaining fluid balance. A good balance of electrolytes keeps your muscles contracting and relaxing as they should.
Every time you sweat or urinate, you lose a certain amount of these electrolytes. If you do not sufficiently replenish the electrolytes through mineral-rich foods- which is common after a lot of exercising, eating a highly processed diet, or during your menstrual cycle – you could end up with cramps as the muscles cannot relax normally.
2. Lack of Circulation
An interference or reduction in circulation can reduce the blood flow of nutrients to certain muscles and lead to cramps. This is often due to prolonged periods of inactivity.
Similar to lack of circulation, poor posture can also put unnatural pressure on the muscles, ligaments, and nerves throughout your body. This could result in the signals to your muscles being blocked or compressed, causing them to spasm.
4. Diseases affecting nerves and muscles as well as some medications eg. Diuretics
This article does not deal with these causes, please talk to your medical professional if this may be the cause of your cramps.
Muscle Cramps: Deal with them DIY Style
1. Eat More Mineral-Rich Foods
There’s a reason you’ve probably been told at least once in your life to eat a banana if you’re having cramps. Namely, bananas and several other fruits and veggies, are rich in potassium and electrolytes that can help get your muscle contractions back on track.
Some other excellent sources of minerals and electrolytes are avocado, sweet potato, citrus fruits, kale and leafy greens, root vegetables like carrots and beets, and seeds.
2. Consume Natural Electrolyte Fluids (free recipe below!)
Coconut water is a great natural source of electrolytes, perfect to drink anytime, especially after exercise. Although commercial sports drinks are popular, they’re often usually loaded with sugar and artificial colours, sweeteners, flavours, and chemicals. You can even make your own Natural sports drink:
- 1 cup coconut water
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 1/8 cup lime juice
- 1 t honey
- ½ t sea salt
Blend together until honey is fully incorporated then drink!
3. Use a Magnesium Supplement
All supplements are not equal, check the formulation as some forms are more absorbed (bio-available) than others. Magnesium citrate and magnesium amino acid chelate have good bio-availability. Also check whether it contains co-factors that enhance the absorption, such as Vitamin D3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Taurine. They come as powders and tablets.
Spray on Magnesium is often helpful if you get cramps during exercise.
4. Epsom Salt Bath and Essential Oils
Epsom salt is naturally rich in magnesium that seeps into your skin to reach tense muscles when you add it to a warm bath. Epsom salts are an easy way to prevent magnesium deficiency, ease stress, soothe muscles and detoxify the body. The heat also helps relax muscles and can even ease anxiety if this is contributing to tightness in your back or neck.
If you don’t have a bath at home, use your shower head and aim it at cramped muscles. Afterwards you can massage relaxing or pain-killing essential oils into muscles, including peppermint or lavender oils.
5. Get Moving
If your muscle cramps are being caused by lack of circulation, your best bet is to add more movement into your day. This could mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and standing once or twice every hour and doing some active stretches like arm circles and leg swings.
6. Stretching, Massage & Foam Rolling
Stretching and foam rolling have been shown to improve circulation, help remove lactic acid build-up in muscles and reduce the chances of experiencing cramps. Massaging the area that’s cramping up can also bring immediate, effective relief.
Calf cramp? Try this stretch once the pain comes on: Sit down with your legs straight in front of you and pull your toes/top of your feet back toward you to stretch the back of your leg while gently rubbing the cramped area. If your leg cramps affect the front of your thighs (quadriceps), bend your affected leg and grab your foot behind you, pulling your foot up toward your back to stretch out the front of your thigh.
For nocturnal cramps, stretch out the affected area regularly before going to bed, and try using a foam roller.
A cold pack can be used to relax tense muscles. Following a cramp, a warm towel or heating pad can alleviate pain or tenderness.
7. Perfect your Posture
Being hunched over for many hours a day or exercising and walking with bad posture can put you at risk for cramps. If you’ve been getting enough electrolytes and regularly stretch your muscles, but still find you have persistent muscle cramps, you might want to work on your posture yourself and see a lifestyle chiropractor.
Now it’s up to you to make some changes and get rid of those cramps by getting your muscles functioning optimally. Chat to your Chiropractor about which may be the best approach for you.