You know how painful muscle cramps can be. Though generally harmless, cramps can make it temporarily impossible to use the affected muscle. Long periods of exercise or physical labour, particularly in hot weather like ours, can lead to muscle cramps. Some medications and certain medical conditions may also bring them on. Our muscles are quite sensitive to what goes on in the body. Muscle contraction happens when electrical signals from our brain travel down nerves in our spinal cord to a muscle. At the muscle, the nerve signal causes the release of calcium and other substances that cause proteins within the muscle to slide past one another, resulting in contraction. Anything that disrupts either the electrical signaling process or the release of calcium or other chemicals can cause cramps.
A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles, and can occur in any part of the body. Conditions such as diarrhea can cause stomach cramps, period pain is caused by cramps in the uterus, asthma is caused by a spasming or cramping of our breathing tubes. Damage to nerve pathways can happen after a stroke, with multiple sclerosis, after trauma or spinal cord injury, or after a poisoning. Salt balance within our body is easily disrupted with heavy sweating and dehydration.
Medicines such as diuretics that control body fluids, or statins for high cholesterol, are associated with cramps. Muscles that are overused, strained, held in a set position for too long, or have an inadequate blood supply are also more vulnerable. Sometimes the reason for muscle cramps is not known. Most of them occur in the leg muscles, particularly in the calf. Besides that, you might also feel a sudden, sharp pain or see a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath your skin.
Leg cramps are characterised by sudden, severe and involuntary muscle contractions. They commonly affect the calf muscles but may occur in the hamstrings or muscles of the feet, especially at night. These nocturnal cramps that occur primarily during sleep are classically characterised as unilateral, painful, and palpable, involuntary muscle contractions that often are localised and have a sudden
onset. Individuals with leg cramps may complain of sleep disturbances that may negatively affect their overall well-being. Pregnant women are prone to leg cramps at night, specially during the second and third trimesters. Although most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as:
Inadequate blood supply: Narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities) can produce cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you’re exercising. These usually go away soon after you stop exercising.
Nerve compression: Compression of nerves in your spine (lumbar stenosis) also can produce cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain usually worsens the longer you walk. Walking in a slightly flexed position — such as you would use when pushing a shopping cart ahead of you — may improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.
Mineral depletion: Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — also can deplete these minerals.
Quick prevention and cures: Stretching and rubbing the affected muscle can help it to relax. For muscle cramps involving the calf or hamstring (back of the thigh), put weight on the affected leg and pull the toes up.
If you are unable to stand, sit down with your legs extended. For cramps involving the front of the thigh (quadriceps), try using a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot up towards your buttock. Heat can also soothe tight and tense muscles.
Alternatively, some people prefer ice. Regular calf stretching (three times a day for five minutes) may help those who are prone to frequent cramps. Stand about two to three feet from a wall, keep your feet flat on the ground and bend forward to lean on the wall until you can feel that stretch. Do this several times and hold for as long as you can manage.
If you are prone to night cramps, try using a pillow to prop up your feet in bed if you sleep on your back, and keep blankets loose so your feet aren’t restricted. Athletes are specially prone to cramps. The combination of salt loss, fluid loss and muscle fatigue, particularly in those who are ‘salty sweaters’ makes them a prime candidate for a charley horse. In that case the diets should contain enough salt (sodium) to supplement that loss, but don’t go overboard.
Replenishing salt and other electrolytes during a race or prolonged training with certain sports drinks is also a good idea, but avoid consuming sports drinks that are high in sugar. Eating foods that are high in potassium (like bananas, dried fruit, mushrooms, apple cider vinegar), calcium (dairy products, leafy greens, sardines) or magnesium (beans, nuts, green vegetables) can help greatly.
At Acusansthan, we have developed special treatments for cramps in different parts of body, followed by treatment to prevent further cramps. The general treatments are given below:
Treatment for cramps of the Pleura (Chest area): Probe point P 4, stimulate it and place yellow side of byol magnet on tape and paste it on index finger as shown. Repeat this treatment everyday till problem gets over. Consult a doctor if the problem persists.
Treatment for cramps in calves and for arm: Probe point GB 44, stimulate it and place the yellow side of byol magnet on tape and paste it on index finger as shown. Repeat the treatment for a few days.
(From increasing metabolism to overcoming physical problems, Prof Luthria speaks about the art of self-healing through simple techniques. For more information on treatments and remedies, visit www.artofselfhealing.in)