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Cramps - Muscle
Herbal & Home Remedies Herbal Remedies Home Remedies

Muscle cramps occur when your muscle tightens and shortens causing a sudden severe pain.

Muscle cramps usually result from overexertion and dehydration. When you don't have enough fluid in your system, it leads to an electrolyte imbalance that causes your muscles to cramp up. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium that help the cells to function normally. An imbalance occurs when we have too much or too little of one or more electrolytes in our system. The main electrolytes affecting muscle cramping are potassium, sodium and calcium.

Cramps may also occur after inactivity, such as sitting too long in one place without moving a muscle. Sometimes you can even get a cramp when you're just lying in bed, though researchers cannot define a definite cause.

Most often people get cramps in their calves, however, you can also get them in your thighs, feet or just about any muscle. Cramps can be eased by a few simple methods as mentioned below.

Muscle cramps may also be a symptom/complication of pregnancy, kidney disease, thyroid disease, hypokalemia or hypocalcemia (as conditions), restless legs syndrome, varicose veins, and multiple sclerosis.

Electrolyte disturbance may cause cramping and tetany of muscles, particularly hypokalaemia (a low level of potassium) and hypocalcaemia (a low level of calcium). This disturbance arises as the body loses large amounts of interstitial fluid through sweat. This interstitial fluid is composed mostly of water and table salt (NaCl). The loss of osmotically active particles outside muscle cells leads to a disturbance of the osmotic balance and swelling of muscle cells as these contain more osmotically active particles. This causes the calcium pump between the muscle lumen and sarcoplasmic reticulum to short circuit and the calcium ions remain bound to the troponin and the muscle contraction is continued. This may occur when the lactic acid is high in the cells.

As early as 1965 it has been observed that leg cramps & restless legs syndrome can be a result of excess insulin, sometimes called hyperinsulinemia. Hypoglycemia & reactive hypoglycemia are also known to be associated with excess insulin [or insufficient glucagon] and avoidance of too low blood glucose concentration may help avoid cramp.

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The symptoms of a muscle cramp include:

  • Sudden sensation of uncontrollable and painful spasms in the muscle
  • Muscle twitching.

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In many cases, it is impossible to determine the cause of the leg cramps.

Muscle cramps can arise from spontaneous firing of special nerve groups followed by contraction of certain muscle fibers.

Cramps that are recurrent and localized to one muscle group may suggest nerve root disease.

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Home Remedies

Another natural remedy is to make use of vinegar. Add several cups of vinegar to a hot bath to soak away cramps, spasms, and tension. In addition, a compress of apple cider vinegar applied to the area of the troubled muscle can help relieve the symptoms. Vinegar can also be combined with honey to use to help relieve muscle problems. Combine equal amounts of each to make a drink. It is thought that this remedy also works for arthritis by distributing calcium deposits throughout the bloodstream, which relieves muscle cramps.

If the cramps are induced by vigorous exercise, it helps to take a long hot bath immediately after the activity. In addition, taking a cold bath while moving the muscles that tend to cramp will help as well. This should be done directly before going to bed. This seems to help with sports related cramps that afflict athletes during the night.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven home remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Herbal Remedies

Lotion containing Arnica will help relieve cramps and spasms when rubbed on the afflicted muscle. Eucalyptus oil is also used as a remedy for this trouble. It should also be rubbed onto the aching area. Do not use if pregnant. Also, do not put this oil on your skin at full strength. It can cause irritation if not diluted. Arnica (According to a European folk tale, the medicinal value of arnica was discovered by shepherds who noticed that injured sheep and goats were attracted to the plant.)

Make a salve or diluted tincture of Calendula to relieve muscle spasms, sprains, or pulled muscles. Add a bit of Garden Thyme to your bath to soak in to relieve cramps. This works best if the bath is very warm. Peppermint tea brings a welcome relief from muscle spasms and cramps. Do not use these herbs if you are pregnant.

Oil from both German and Roman Chamomile can be used as a remedy for cramps. It can be added to tea to be taken internally. It can also be used as a massage oil to help bring relief. Fennel oil can also be used to massage away aches and pains. Do not use either of these oils if you are pregnant.

If you have suggestions or know of a proven herbal remedy add it here in the comment area.

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Wellness Program

When cramping occurs, try these steps:

Walk on or jiggle the affected leg and then elevate it.

Straighten the leg and flex your foot toward your knee. Grab your toes and pull them upward toward your knee. You should feel your calf muscles stretching.

Take a hot shower or warm bath, or apply an ice massage to the cramped muscle.

First, relax the tightened area.

You should gently massaging the area that's cramped, whether it's a crick in your calf from over exercising or a spasm in your feet. Second, stretch the muscle out slowly and gently, as long as you don't feel pain. For calf cramps, do a wall stretch. Stand about three feet away from the wall, with your knees straight and your heels on the floor. Lean into the wall, supporting yourself with your hands. You will feel the stretch of your calf muscles. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat three times.

You should also make sure to drink plenty of fluids.

If you get muscle cramps after exercise, drink water or a sports drink or juice to rehydrate and restore your electrolyte balance. Most of the time water will be sufficient to rehydrate you, however, you are then better off choosing a sports drink containing electrolytes.

You may also undo a cramp with ice.

Ice is both a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory. Try massaging the area with ice for no more than ten minutes or until the area is bright red, which indicates that blood cells have returned to heat the cramped muscle. If ice is too uncomfortable, try heat. Heat improves superficial blood circulation and makes muscles more flexible, so some people find that heat is more soothing for muscle cramps than ice. Try a heating pad for 20 minutes at a time or even a warm shower or bath. Make sure to massage the muscle with your hands following ice or heat.

Nocturnal muscle cramps can often be prevented by doing leg-stretching exercises, such as the one outlined below.

1. Stand 30 inches from the wall.

2. While keeping your heels on the floor, lean forward, put your hands on the wall, and slowly move your hands up the wall as far as you can reach comfortably.

3. Hold the stretched position for 30 seconds. Release.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 two more times.

5. For best results, practice this exercise in the morning, before your evening meal, and before going to bed each night.

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