Whether you are an active person or not, everyone has experienced a muscle cramp at some point in their life. While these are typically brief annoyances, for athletes or for those who regularly suffer from muscle cramps, it is important to understand how and why they occur, and some of the best ways to naturally treat them.
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle are both very important for overall health, but if you don’t quite know your limits, or if you aren’t in the proper condition to take on that sort of physical exertion, then you can injure yourself. Muscle cramps are often the first sign that your body isn’t quite ready to tackle the physical demands you’ve placed on it. These cramps can happen in any muscle group, not just the arms or legs, and is largely caused by the same basic things.
When you get a cramp, it is your muscle involuntarily contracting, and while it is usually temporary, it may prevent your use of the muscle for a period of time. This can be caused by using the muscle too much, straining the muscle, or dehydration, in most cases. However, the reason that chronic muscle cramps can be serious is that they may indicate an underlying medical condition that could be much more dangerous. Some muscle cramps can be caused by nerve compression, inadequate or blocked blood supply, or mineral deficiencies. If not addressed, these issues will continue, along with the painful cramps.
The primary symptom of a muscle cramp is self-explanatory – your muscle cramps up and tightens painfully. You will feel a sharp pain and a knot of hard, flexed tissue beneath the skin. The area can be tender when touched or pressed on. Most of the time, muscle cramps can be sorted out through natural remedies or stretching exercises, but in some cases, it is important for you to see a doctor. For example, if your muscle cramps are not preceded by any rigorous exercise, if they happen regularly, or if the area around the cramp swells or becomes discoloured. In most normal situations, muscle cramps can be controlled with a number of effective remedies:
Water: Dehydration is probably the most common reason for a muscle cramp. When your muscles don’t get the proper amount of water being sent to them, they are unable to function, and they lock up, resulting in a cramp. Flooding your system with water is a quick and reliable way to eliminate a muscle cramp, particularly when combined with the next remedy.
Pressure: When you apply pressure to the site of a muscle cramp, that pressure can often induce more blood flow to the region, causing the muscle to loosen up. This can come in the form of a gentle massage, or simple pressure being put on the cramped muscle.
Electrolytes: There is a good reason why so many energy drinks advertise the presence of electrolytes, as these important minerals are essential for fluid transfer and muscle movement in the human body. The two primary electrolytes that relate to muscle cramps are potassium and magnesium, so if you are suffering from chronic muscle cramps, there is a good chance you’re lacking these nutrients. Magnesium is commonly found in nuts, beans and grains, while potassium can be accessed in bananas and cantaloupes.
Stretching: Many times, people get a cramp in their muscles when they strain a muscle, and nothing will help you a strain a muscle faster than not stretching. However, stretching can also be a treatment for a muscle cramp, as it will induce blood flow to the site of the cramp and relieve the pressure and tension of the cramp. Therefore, stretching is both a prevention measure and an effective treatment.
Massage treatment: If you are experiencing muscle cramp in the same place on a regular basis, there may be an underlying cause such as a damaged joint or ligament that causes the muscles to ‘tense up’. Treatment can determine the cause and with this remedied, the cramps will likely go away.
Heating Pads: If you apply heating pads to the affected area of a muscle cramp, it can induce blood flow to the area, which can re-oxygenate and hydrate the tissues, thus easing the tension of the cramp. Heating pads should be alternated with ice, particularly in the first few hours following the cramp, particularly if it lasts for an extended period of time.
Vitamin E: Many different studies have been done on vitamin E, as it seems to have an effect on many different aspects of human health. When it comes to muscle cramps, vitamin E is recommended because it has been shown to boost blood flow through the arteries, which can make it much harder for muscle cramps to form.
Calcium: One of the most important minerals in the body is calcium. From bone mineral density to nervous system functioning, calcium plays a key role in all of our activities. In terms of muscle cramps, many specialists believe that calcium deficiencies are responsible for a large amount of these conditions, as a lack of calcium prevents proper muscle control and movement. Calcium-rich foods include leafy greens, cheese, almonds and fish.