Cramps are an uncomfortable pain that arises when the muscle is in a sustained contraction not under control of the person, but rather the nervous system. The most common places to experience cramps are in the foot, and calves. Although cramps are common, habitual cramps and cramps in the upper body should be examined by a physician. For the less serious cramps, but still unpleasant here are two of the most common causes and solutions.
What causes Cramps?
Dehydration and lack of electrolytes- Our muscles rely on positive and negative charges in potassium and sodium as a part of healthy muscle contractions. Signs of dehydration are muscle cramps, fatigue, lack of concentration and dizziness. Often when we are exercising and not watching how much water we put back and with the electrolytes lost muscle cramps will result. This is because the negative-positive imbalance will be signalling the body to contract.
Another common reason for muscle cramps is loss of good circulation. There are two easy things you can do prevent cramps caused by lack of circulation. Over time if you exercise frequently but do not stretch prior to or after the exercise, your muscles will get stiff and lack circulation. This can also occur from lack of movement. As technology advances people are spending more time behind computers, and that can lead to a lack of movement. Our body was made to move, and if our physical activity is non existent throughout the work week our body overtime will lack circulation as well, which can lead to cramps.
What can I do to Prevent/Help with Cramps?
If there is a time of day or certain activity that brings on cramps, prior to this activity stretch the area you usually get cramps in. Stretching brings oxygen rich blood back to the area and therefore increasing circulation in the area. This can be a beneficial proactive step to take. If you are already experiencing a cramp, you can use a heat pack on the area to promote blood flow. This should help lessen the intensity of the discomfort or stop it all together. Massage therapy is designed to bring circulation to any area being massaged, and therefore is a great preventative to cramps. Massage therapy is also great for lessening the severity of cramps as the therapist can release surrounding muscles that might be triggering the area to become chronically tight and irritated, thus creating cramps. Getting regular massages can help ensure the overall health of your muscles and prevent future injuries and cramps.
Dehydration is quite common, and to help prevent this, carry around an electrolyte containing beverage while you are exercising. Many of these beverages contain high amounts of sugar, so if all else fails and you can not find a healthy electrolyte beverage, have a banana before working out. The potassium in a banana will usually help bring back some of that electrolyte balance needed.
With any muscular discomfort, being proactive is key. Often we will not feel the discomfort all at once, but rather our body adapts over time and often by the time we are in constant pain, the problems have been there for awhile. Stay hydrated, stretch, and consider massage therapy as an added preventative. These simple suggestions often help with the discomfort of cramps, but again be aware that if you experience cramps on a regular basis this could be a sign that there is something else wrong and should be taken seriously and looked at by a physician.
For more information please contact Fish Creek Chiropractic at 403 271 7224.