A muscle cramp is more a symptom than a disease. Wherever you have a muscle, you can have a cramp.
Skeletal muscles are most cramp-prone, but smooth muscle such as that lining the digestive tract can also experience its share of spasm and cramp. The usually painful contraction of muscle is very often caused by overexcitability of the nerves controlling these muscles.
- If your diet is not providing you with sufficient minerals, in particular magnesium, potassium, and calcium, you are more likely to experience cramps.
- Low blood sugar levels may cause muscle cramps.
- Diuretics, often prescribed for high blood pressure, tend to deplete the body of potassium and magnesium.
- Sports people often experience cramps due to overexerting the muscles and a loss of minerals via the sweat. Formerly, salt (NaCl) tablets were recommended to replace these losses. It is now common practice to replace the water lost as a priority, and replace the lost ‘salts’ with formulations containing glucose and several minerals.
What To Do
- Keep your sugar levels constant, follow the recommendations for the hypoglycaemia diet (see Hypoglycaemia).
- Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. These are the foods with the richest source of vitamins and minerals.
- Avoid sugar, coffee, tea, alcohol and white flour products. These foods rob your body of muscle-relaxing minerals and vitamins. In addition, alcohol, tea and coffee are diuretic.
- Slight dehydration can result in cramps.
Herbs and Supplements
- Hydrate with delicious herbal tisanes such as Dinki Di and Go-Go
- Vitamin E is one of the most useful supplements. It will serve to prevent muscle cramps in the majority of cases, possibly by improving circulation. Vitamin E is particularly good in leg and period cramps. Take 500-1000 iu daily.
- Take a magnesium and calcium supplement twice daily.
- For immediate relief, take a couple of tablets of the tissue salt Mag. phos., or sip water which has a Mag. phos. tablet crushed in it.
- Ginger is excellent for muscle pain and spasm. Drink ginger tea, especially good for period cramps and digestive disorders. Make a ginger compress for leg, back or neck cramps. (See Glossary for how to make a compress.)
- Herbs that relieve muscle cramps include cramp bark, chamomile, wild yam, valerian and skullcap. Take one or more of these herbs in a tea, tincture or tablet twice daily.
- Stretch your muscles as much as possible. Yoga is ideal for this.
- If you experience unexplained cramping of muscles, seek advice from an osteopath who will ascertain whether any nerves are being ‘pinched’ by the spine.
- Retention breathing may help the chronic cramper.
At a glance
- Good food
- Fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. Drink plenty of fluids.
- Food to avoid
- Sugar, coffee, tea, alcohol and white flour products.
- Remedies to begin
- Magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, Mag. phos., ginger, cramp bark.
- Stretching. Yoga.
- Are you holding on to a thought or emotion which should be let go?