Cramp is the name given to prolonged and painful contraction of a muscle. It can occur as a result of imbalance in body salts, particularly sodium, potassium and calcium. Distance runners who become dehydrated and salt depleted are at risk. It can also happen in muscles which are repeatedly exercised over a long period, such as writer’s cramp.
It can also happen when a muscle is stretched after a long period of inactivity, so it can come on first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. It can also be a side effect of some drugs.
Maintaining a proper salt balance, proper warm up and cool down exercises can help together with vigorous massage of the affected muscle. Oxygen starvation due to to restricted blood supply can cause cramp as can a lactic acid build up due to excessive exercise.
Cramp is often seen as a symptom of an underlying problems. Night cramps may be due to impaired blood supply or mineral deficiencies. Angina ic cramp of the heart muscle, whereas cramp of the blood vessels due to atherosclerosis is known as intermittent claudication. Hormonal changes in mentruating women results in pre-menstrual cramps.
It is important to address the cause of the cramps. Symptoms can be helped by using anti-spasmodics.
Nutritional Supplements that could help. (Refer to the individual supplement for cautions in use.)
|Supplement/Herb||What it does||Dosage|
|Calcium||Needed for proper muscle relaxation||800-1200mg daily|
|Magnesium||Needed to relax muscles, helps reduce spasms. A common mineral deficiency.||300mg twice daily|
|Multimineral||To correct mineral deficiencies||High potency formula 1 hour before bedtime|
|Vitamin E||Helps oxygenation fo red blood cells, support cardiovascular health.||400iu 1 -2 times daily.|
|Vitamin B Complex||To help provide energy to the muscles.||High potency formula as directed.|
|Dolomite||A source of calcium and magnesium||As directed|
|Anti-spasmodic herbs can help relieve cramps and have fewer side effects:|
|Black Cohosh||Anti-spasmodic, helps reduce muscle spasm.||As directed|
|Gingko biloba||Helps improve blood flow where cramp is due to poor circulation.||As directed|
|Valerian||Anti-spasmodic. Potent sedative that gives mild pain relief. Useful if cramps are caused by stress.||500mg 2 to 3 times daily|
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Cut down on refined food such as white flour, bread, pasta, rice, cake, biscuits, sugar and coffee as they deplete minerals such as magnesium and potassium.
Eat a well balanced diet with a wide variety of different foods to provide the minerals needed for normal muscle function.
Almonds, sesame seeds, and brazil nuts are rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Include fresh fruits and vegetables, especially bananas, raw cauliflower, dates, apricots, jacket potatoes, seafood, leafy greens, avocado, steak, mackerel and beans which are all good sources of potassium and magnesium.
Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Night cramps in the legs can be helped by stretching the calf muscles before bedtime. An evening walk can exercise the leg muscles and improve circulation.
Aromatherapy massage with ginger, geranium or cypress oils can help improve circulation and reduce cramping.