Arthritis, joint, bone & muscle

Muscle cramps

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Cramps can affect any muscle in the body, but are most commonly experienced in the calves and feet.

Symptoms

  • A sudden, involuntary, painful spasm (or tightening) of a muscle.
  • Muscle twitching.
  • Cramps generally resolve by themselves after a few moments.
  • In some cases, cramps may be indicative of underlying disease. Consult your doctor if you experience cramps frequently, if your symptoms are severe, or if the cramps take longer than a few minutes to disappear.

Causes

Although the reason that cramps occur is not fully understood, a number of risk factors have been identified. These include:

  • Imbalance of the minerals (electrolytes) involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, including magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium. This may occur due to dietary inadequacy, but may also be a consequence of the fluid losses that occur during vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and excessive sweating. 
  • Being in poor physical health.
  • Having tight or inflexible muscles, or poor muscle tone.
  • Muscle injury or fatigue.
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods of time.

Natural therapies

  • Magnesium helps all the muscles of the body to function optimally  and to contract in a normal, healthy way. It is also important for exercise performance . Taking a magnesium supplement* may help prevent muscular cramps and spasms and aid in the management of leg cramps that occur during the night.
*Magnesium may only be of assistance when dietary intake is inadequate

Diet and lifestyle

  • During a cramp, lengthen the muscle by gently stretching it. Follow this by rubbing or massaging the affected muscle, but again, be gentle. Apply an ice pack if necessary.
  • Stretching before and after exercise is important. Yoga classes are a great way to improve your flexibility and stretch out your muscles, and regular massage can aid muscle relaxation.
  • Make sure you warm up and cool down before you exercise.
  • Maintain adequate fluid intake. Aim for at least two litres of water every day, with additional water before, during and after exercise sessions.
  • If you’re prone to excessive perspiration, or if you train for extended periods or in hot temperatures, it may be appropriate to take an electrolyte replacement drink to rehydrate the body and quickly replace minerals lost in the sweat.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that contains large quantities and a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
  • Avoid wearing high heels or shoes that don’t fit comfortably.

Important notes

  • Seek medical advice if you experience frequent, severe, or extended cramping, or if you are concerned that your prescribed medicine may be causing or contributing to your cramps. You may need to switch to a different medication.
  • If you experience cramping pain in the chest that radiates to the shoulder, arm or neck, it’s possible you are having a heart attack. Call for an ambulance immediately, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Hello Daisy, the treatment for Fibromuscular Dysplasia can be complex, and it has to be recommended by a GP or specialized healthcare practitioner. From a naturopathic point of view, Devils’ Claw is a great anti-inflammatory and you can certainly take it for back pain and reducing inflammation, however it may not be the most appropriate supplement for relieving your cramps. I would recommend trying grape seed extract, a powerful herbal antioxidant that may be beneficial in stabilizing capillary walls and increasing capillary permeability. Grape seed also supports symptoms like swelling (oedema), heaviness, pain and itching of the legs. I hope this information will be useful Daisy. If you need any further help, please call our Naturopathic Advisory Service at 1800 803 760 . Kind regards, Rosaria Nithart (Blackmores Naturopath)
I suffer from Fibromuscular Dysplasia of both carotids, with a 70% stenosis, Could this stenosis be causing the back muscle cramps I have been experiencing? Would Devils Claw help?
Anonymous
Anonymous 07 Mar 2014
Dear Joy,
Thank you for your post. Magnesium will certainly help with the cramps your husband is experiencing and there are no known interactions with insulin or blood pressure medication. I hope this helps Joy, please let us know if we can be of further assistance. Kind regards, Rebekah (a Blackmores naturopath)

Hi
My husband is diabetic type1 insulin dependent, and taken a blood pressure tablet as well , and recently he is having cramps almost everynight this week, but I don't know if the magnesium tablet is good for him. Please advise me.

Joy
Anonymous
Anonymous 21 Jan 2014
Dear Tony,
Thank you for your post.
I’m sorry to hear you are suffering from severe muscle spasms. Muscle cramps and spasms can be due to a number of factors.
Many people find that they benefit from taking supplements that contain magnesium, and/or calcium.
Some other tips are to ensure that you stay hydrated, stretch regularly and consider electrolyte replacement drinks if you are prone to excessive perspiration or if you exercise for extended periods of time.
However – you may benefit most from seeing your healthcare professional to try and find the cause of your severe spasms.
I hope this is of help Tony – please contact the Blackmores Naturopathic Advisory Centre on 1800-803-760, or email us at advice@blackmores.com.au if we can be of any further assistance.
Kind regards,
Charmaine (Blackmores naturopath)
Charmaine
Charmaine 11 Nov 2013
what can i take for severe muscle spasms,

thank you
Anonymous
Anonymous 11 Nov 2013
Hello Reg,
How frustrating and painful to encounter this problem each time you swim long distance.
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in many metabolic processes within the body contributing to muscle nerve function and normal energy metabolism. Muscle cramps can be an identifying symptom of magnesium deficiency. Other deficiencies or imbalances that may cause muscle cramps include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Foods such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and soybeans contain high amounts of magnesium whilst fruits such as apricots (especially dried), bananas and raisins, are good sources of potassium.
Try to avoid large amounts of simple carbohydrates (cakes, white bread, white pasta, biscuits etc), excess protein, sugar, alcohol and soft drinks. Dehydration can also contribute to cramps. Make sure you are hydrating yourself at all times. It is common for people to forget to hydrate whilst swimming as you are in water and I wonder if this has anything to do with you cramping after swimming in comparison to running or cycling. If you would like some more personalised advice please contact the Blackmores Naturopathic Advisory service on 1800-803-760, or email us at advice@blackmores.com.au so that we can assist you.
Kind regards, Michelle (Blackmores naturopath)
Hi, I'm looking for help with a continuing cramp I get in (only) my left foot in around the arch area when swimming for a long period of time. I am 53years old, in very good health and either run, swim or cycle every day. I do not get this cramping while riding or running, but only swimming and only after completing at least 1.5km in one swim. I do compete in longer swims (2 & 3kms) and really find this cramp a pain in the @%$&. Will a magnesium supplement help me? I currently take Blackmores Vit C 500mg, joint formula as well as another brand Vit D every day and generally feel great! Please help me! Many thanks, Reg
Anonymous
Anonymous 30 Sep 2013