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The Mystery of Cramps...and how to deal with them

By Jane McClurg 7th September 2017

 

We have all had them at some point...in the middle of a run or in the middle of the night; cramps! They can be excruciatingly painful and downright annoying, so why do we get them and how do we prevent them?

What is a cramp? Nothing more than a short involuntary contraction of a muscle.

Why do we cramp? This is a little harder to answer as the researchers find it’s virtually impossible to cramp on cue, which makes it difficult to study and why it remains a bit of a mystery. What they do know is the following things are linked cramps;

 

  • Low levels of certain types of minerals known as electrolytes—magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium.

  • Certain drugs such as diuretics for the heart and high blood pressure.

 

  • Dialysis patients often complain of cramps.

 

  • Pregnancy also seems to have an effect.

 

  • The more muscular the more cramps has been observed.

 

  • Pointing your toes a certain way either swimming or being stuck in the bedclothes at night are both common causes of leg cramps.

 

The Electrolyte Theory

 

Studies have found that cramps sometimes respond well to vitamin and mineral therapy. One of the main minerals you may be lacking in is Magnesium. Dr Robert McLean; clinical assistant professor of medicine at Yale Medical School explains the connection to cramps:

“think of a key and a lock. Normally stored in muscles and bone, magnesium acts like a key that unlocks muscle cells, allowing potassium and calcium to move in and out when needed as the muscle does its job. Without adequate levels of these nutrients, the muscle becomes irritable.”

So this is why all of the above minerals are important for muscle contraction and relaxation but the research shows we are more likely to be lower in magnesium because of our diet.

 

Prevention of cramps

 

Diet: So that means increasing levels of magnesium in our diet by eating foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts, figs and pumpkin seeds..

Foods high in Potassium such as bananas, prunes, baked potato can help and electrolyte drinks taken before exercise and after can ward off cramps.

Supplements: Taking magnesium supplements can also help, some people feel instant relief, some after about 4 weeks.

Active Elements are an excellent choice of minerals as they are formulated to your specific needs and two formulations are perfect for cramps: Active 3.1 and 4.2 (These will be available soon through Balance Massage!)

Topical: Magnesium oil which you rub on topically has also been found to be effective for some people.
Another way to increase your electrolytes is an Epsom Salts bath. Studies have shown that an Epsom Salt bath 2 to 3 times a week, using 500g—600g of Epsom Salts each time can increase your sulphate and magnesium level...super cheap from the supermarket so a great option.

Essential oils to use topically include; Roman Chamomile, Peppermint, Basil, & Lavender.

Other: And for some instant relief there is a Homeopathic remedy called Cramp Stop that has had good results.

During a cramp: make sure you gently stretch it out and also activate the opposing muscle. For example if it’s your calf that is cramping, actively pull your toes back toward your knee so you’re contracting the “shin muscles” which is opposite to the calf muscle. Basically opposing muscles can’t contract at the same time so this initiates a relaxation response in the calf muscle.

Be sure to rub some Balance Balm on the offending muscle afterward to help ease away any residual tenderness.

 

 

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