Muscle cramps can be a real pain, especially those calf-gripping “charley horses” that strike in the middle of the night. If you’ve noticed an increase in muscle cramps after your workout, then you’re most likely wondering why they’re happening and – more importantly – how to make them stop. So, let’s begin by explaining with what causes them.
What causes muscle cramps
Muscle cramps can lend a whole new meaning to the phrase, “no pain, no gain,” but you don’t have to be a gym guru to experience them. In fact, there are several reasons why our muscles cramp up. Here are some common culprits that may be the cause:
- Overexertion can cause lactic acid to build-up in muscles
- Overstretching can lead to spasms
- Prolonged sitting or inactivity (excessive sitting can also lead to deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the legs that travels to the lungs)
- Diuretics, which help the body excrete excess fluid
- Circulatory problems
- Imbalance of minerals which include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium
Kicking the cramp
When a cramp strikes, you want to ease the pain fast. But what works for one person may not work for another. Here are some helpful tips to kick the cramp:
- Rubbing or massaging the muscle when it strikes
- Flexing your foot toward your knee
- Stretching your leg
- Walking, if possible
- Standing on tiptoes
- Applying a warm towel or heating pad can relax the muscle (although cool towels work better for some people)
It’s not uncommon to still be sore after the cramp calms down. Here are some ways to relieve sore muscles:
- Try taking willow bark or ginger
- Apply topical arnica
- Take a warm bath with Epsom salt and try adding a few drops of ginger, lavender or birch essential oil
Keeping cramps away
Let’s be honest. Muscle cramps are painful; once you’ve had one, you don’t ever want to experience another. Prevention is the best medicine, so knowing how to avoid them can be the best prescription. Here are some tips to help keep cramps at bay:
- Stay hydrated, especially when working out or traveling
- Drinking water with sea salt provides sodium and trace minerals that can alleviate cramping
- Do shorter workouts and avoid overexertion
- Wear loose clothing that won’t restrict blood flow
- Take a yoga or tai chi class to increase flexibility
- Ladies – skip high heels and flip-flops
Diet and nutrition are game changers when it comes to keeping muscle cramps away. Here are some ways to keep your body in nutritional balance:
- Eat bananas and other potassium and magnesium-rich foods, such as chia seeds.
- Try taking a magnesium and calcium supplement, and a Vitamin D supplement and Vitamin E to offset deficiency in these nutrients
- Check your B1, B5 and B6 levels
Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, but those late-night spasms can jolt us out of bed without any warning. Here are some bedtime tips to put those cramps to rest:
- Do gentle stretches
- Ride a stationary bike
- Avoid tight sleepwear that bends toes downward
If you’re wondering about thigh and foot cramps, there’s relief for those, too.
To lessen thigh cramps, drink plenty of fluids and move around as much as possible when in confined spaces, such as an airplane cabin. To avoid foot cramps, try shifting your weight every 10 minutes when standing.
Having even one muscle cramp is one too many, so don’t wait for another one to strike before you do something about it. Even though most cramps will improve with rest and time, the key is stop them before they start.
So, what are you waiting for? Start making a checklist and see how you can improve your routine to kick those cramps to the curb for good.
To keep your body’s nutritional balance in check, try our calcium and magnesium supplement to increase your chances of being “cramp-free” during and after a workout.