Cramps can strike at any time and can often be debilitating for the sufferer. Cramps are involuntary muscle spasms often experienced after exercise which can give discomfort and even pain. This article will explore the problem of muscle cramps and discuss how to prevent them and treat them using natural remedies.
Cramps can commonly occur after performing intense physical exercise due to a lack of oxygen or hydration in the muscle or an insufficiency of mineral salts. The likelihood of cramps rises after exercise if you do not perform stretches, while sitting still for long periods can increase the risk of cramps, along with cold temperatures or sudden movements.
Some people even experience cramps while sleeping, which can be so uncomfortable that they wake up. This is often due to issues with blood circulation. Other times you may notice mild cramps are after exercising at the gym or running when you finish suddenly. The muscles can contract as your body adapts to the sudden change in blood pressure. This is why it is a good idea to stretch after exercise, to relieve the pressure in the muscle.
Prolonged exercise also increases lactic acid production which can cause cramps and tightness in the muscles. Stretching the affected muscles helps to remove this lactic acid build up and reduces or even prevents the cramping feeling.
Reducing cramps naturally
Cramps are a nuisance and occasionally painful, but they are rarely dangerous. In fact, doctors normally say to simply stretch the muscle out in order to reduce the cramping sensation. There are also a number of alternative remedies for cramps that are easy to do at home so that you can be ready with cramps strike to relieve the pressure and tension in the muscle.
Make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water per day as a preventative measure against cramps. When muscles are dehydrated they are more susceptible to cramps as the blood circulation is not as effective when the blood has insufficient water content. Simply being overweight or out of condition physically can also increase your chances of experiencing cramps during day to day exercise and movement.
The body has a number of important electrolytes or mineral salts which can become depleted after intense exercise due to sweating. If these salts are not replaced immediately after exercise this can cause cramping in the muscles. Sports drinks can help to replace lost electrolytes, while another good option is regular fruit juice.
Commonly affected muscles
The most common area for cramps is the legs with the most common muscles for experiencing cramps being the quadriceps muscles, which run along the front of the thighs, the hamstrings at the back of the thighs and the calf muscles. The legs work hard during most forms of exercise, like walking and running, so it is important to spend time stretching the legs after exercise to improve the circulation, stop blood pooling in the legs and encourage lactic acid to break down.
If you are experiencing a cramp, there are a few things you can do to decrease the intensity of the sensation and help it go away quickly. Firstly, stop moving, then stretch the muscle out gently and slowly to reduce the pressure in the muscle and keep it stretched until the cramp passes. Rubbing and massaging the affected muscle can also help to relive the cramping sensation.
Home remedies for cramps
If a muscle is painful during or after a cramping experience, you can relive the soreness with ice packs. The cold temperature will reduce swelling and constrict blood vessels. Drinking gingko biloba tea every day to reduce the possibility and severity of cramps is recommended. Add three tablespoons of this herb to a cup of boiling water. Essential oils that can help muscles to relax include rosemary, thyme and eucalyptus. A warm wrap can be used during a cramp to encourage blood flow and lactic acid drainage.
Other home remedies include vinegar and honey added to warm water as a soothing drink with balancing properties, a bay leaf infusion and bicarbonate of soda in drinking water. Other drinks which can help to balance the mineral salts and improve circulation include smoothies made from milk, yoghurt, orange juice and banana with the banana ingredient an excellent source of potassium which prevents cramps. Apple cider vinegar is also a remedy for improving the circulation.