Whether you are an active person or not, everyone has experienced a muscle cramp at some point in their life. While these are typically brief annoyances, for athletes or for those who regularly suffer from muscle cramps, it is important to understand how and why they occur, and some of the best ways to naturally treat them.
What are Muscle Cramps?
Regular exercise and an active lifestyle are both very important for overall health, but if you don’t quite know your limits, or if you aren’t in the proper condition to take on that sort of physical exertion, then you can injure yourself. Muscle cramps are often the first sign that your body isn’t quite ready to tackle the physical demands you’ve placed on it. These cramps can happen in any muscle group, not just the arms or legs, and is largely caused by the same basic things. When you get a cramp, it is your muscle involuntarily contracting, and while it is usually temporary, it may prevent your use of the muscle for a period of time. This can be caused by using the muscle too much, straining the muscle, or dehydration, in most cases. However, the reason that chronic muscle cramps can be serious is that they may indicate an underlying medical condition that could be much more dangerous. Some muscle cramps can be caused by nerve compression, inadequate or blocked blood supply, or mineral deficiencies. If not addressed, these issues will continue, along with the painful cramps.
The primary symptom of a muscle cramp is rather self-explanatory – your muscle cramps up and tightens painfully, usually beyond the comfortable level of “flexed” that you are used to. You will feel a sharp pain and a knot of hard, flexed tissue beneath the skin. The area can be tender when touched or pressed on. Most of the time, muscle cramps can be sorted out through natural remedies or stretching exercises, but in some cases, it is important for you to see a doctor. For example, if your muscle cramps are not preceded by any rigorous exercise, if they happen regularly, or if the area around the cramp swells or becomes discolored. In most normal situations, muscle cramps can be controlled with a number of effective home remedies, which will be explained in greater detail below.
Home Remedies for Muscle Cramps
There are a many home remedies that help in relieving muscle cramps. Use of calcium rich products like leafy green cheese, almonds and fish, heating pads, clove oil, pickle juice, and vitamin E are some of the most effective remedies for muscle cramps.
One of the most important minerals in the body is calcium. From bone mineral density to nervous system functioning, calcium plays a key role in all of our activities. In terms of muscle cramps, many specialists believe that calcium deficiencies are responsible for a large amount of these conditions, as a lack of calcium prevents proper muscle control and movement. Calcium-rich foods include leafy greens, cheese, almonds and fish.
There is a good reason why so many energy drinks advertise the presence of electrolytes, as these important minerals are essential for fluid transfer and muscle movement in the human body. The two primary electrolytes that relate to muscle cramps are potassium and magnesium, so if you are suffering from chronic muscle cramps, there is a good chance you’re lacking these nutrients. Magnesium is commonly found in nuts, beans and grains, while potassium can be accessed in bananas and cantaloupes.
If you want to eliminate muscle cramps quickly, one of the best topical applications comes in the form of wintergreen oil. If you spread this oil over your skin and allow it to soak into the skin, the active ingredients will soak into the skin and positively impact pain and inflammation of the muscle, helping the cramp to unwind. Use this oil sparingly, as it is quite powerful, but very effective.
If you apply heating pads to the affected area of a muscle cramp, it can induce blood flow to the area, which can re-oxygenate and hydrate the tissues, thus easing the tension of the cramp. Heating pads should be alternated with ice, particularly in the first few hours following the cramp, particularly if it lasts for an extended period of time.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many different benefits for the body, and is used for everything from improving the health of the skin to optimizing digestion. However, apple cider vinegar is also rich in potassium, which is essential for the release of muscle cramps. Potassium is important for fluid balance and transfer within the body, so consuming apple cider vinegar in small quantities can boost the body’s ability to ease tension in those cramped muscles.
Strong anti-inflammatory medications are often recommended for people who regularly suffer from muscle cramps, but another alternative is simply applying anti-inflammatory substances directly to the site of the cramp, such as clove oil. Not only do the active ingredients in clove oil lower the swelling in the affected tissues, but they are also analgesic in nature, thus reducing your pain.
Many times, people get a cramp in their muscles when they strain a muscle, and nothing will help you a strain a muscle faster than not stretching. However, stretching can also be a treatment for a muscle cramp, as it will induce blood flow to the site of the cramp and relieve the pressure and tension of the cramp. Therefore, stretching is both a prevention measure and an effective treatment.
Many different studies have been done on vitamin E, as it seems to have an effect on many different aspects of human health. When it comes to muscle cramps, vitamin E is recommended because it has been shown to boost blood flow through the arteries, which can make it much harder for muscle cramps to form.
Dehydration is probably the most common reason for a muscle cramp. When your muscles don’t get the proper amount of water being sent to them, they are unable to function, and they lock up, resulting in a cramp. Flooding your system with water is a quick and reliable way to eliminate a muscle cramp, particularly when combined with the next remedy.
When you apply pressure to the site of a muscle cramp, that pressure can often induce more blood flow to the region, causing the muscle to loosen up. This can come in the form of a gentle massage, or simple pressure being put on the cramped muscle. Although many remedies are chemical or nutritional in nature, some solutions
While this comes purely from anecdotal evidence, a number of athletes have praised the benefits of pickle juice for the prevention of muscle cramps. Supposedly, it gives a surge of energy and blood flow, despite its high salt content. This remedy can certainly be tried, but should only be pursued on an individual basis, if it is found to be successful.