Tag Archives: Muscle cramps

About Those Muscle Cramps

crampsJacquieIconBy Jacquie Eubanks
BSN, RN

At some point in time, just about everyone experiences the short lived, but excruciating, pain of a muscle spasm — a sudden involuntary muscle contraction often referred to as a charley horse. Muscle spasms, which frequently come without warning while exercising, resting or sleeping, often occur in the arch of the foot or the calf, quadricep, or hamstring muscles. The spasm may last from just a few seconds to an agonizing fifteen minutes and, less commonly, even longer. When the pain is intense, it can seem like an eternity until the forcibly contracted muscle resolves itself, just as spontaneously as it occurred. It’s not uncommon for a spasm to recur several times before it finally abates and, frequently, the aftermath may be discomfort or sore muscles for a day or two. While muscle spasms can happen to anyone, pregnant women and seniors are the most susceptible to recurring muscle cramping.

Although science has yet to determine an exact cause, underlying or known medical conditions, dehydration, overexertion, muscle fatigue and electrolyte imbalances are believed to be contributing factors. An occasional charley horse is common, however, frequent recurring muscle spasms may require a medical diagnosis. As with other health concerns, prevention measures may be the best approach for reducing the chances of developing cramps and muscle spasms.

  • Physical exertion – Strenuous activity, failure to adequately warm up before exercising, and overworked, fatigued muscles can frequently result in cramping, sometimes many hours later. To help prevent regular occurrence of spasms, exercise while well hydrated at a proper level for you and, when temperatures are high, consider avoiding outdoor exercise.
  • Dehydration – Excessive fluid loss from perspiration during sports or vigorous exercise increases the likelihood of developing cramps. Sodium loss as a result of excessive sweating and insufficient, irregular fluid intake are likely causes of dehydration.
  • Medications – Many medications, including those designed to control blood pressure, lower cholesterol or treat Parkinson’s disease, can also contribute to cramping. Diuretics may induce cramping by depleting body fluids along with sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
  • Low blood levels of calcium and magnesium – Cramping often occurs when calcium and magnesium levels, critical to muscle function, are inadequate. Commonly found in pregnant women and older adults, calcium and magnesium deficiencies, whether caused by inadequate intake, medications, morning sickness, or poor absorption due to vitamin D deficiency, can directly impact the excitability of nerve endings in the muscles they help stimulate.
  • Low potassium – Low potassium levels are commonly associated with muscle weakness but may cause cramping as well. Potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate nerve and muscle function, hydration, blood pH and blood pressure. Imbalanced electrolytes can lead to either muscle weakness or severe muscle contractions.
  • Nocturnal night cramps – Staying in one position, where a muscle is contracted for an extended period of time, is often cited as a cause of spasms that occur while resting. Daily stretching, adequate hydration and keeping bed linens unrestrictive may help to prevent night time cramps.

When muscle spasms do occur, massaging and stretching the muscle are often effective strategies to minimize discomfort and relieve the cramp more quickly or, at the very least, give you something helpful to do while you wait for the muscle to relax. An Epsom salt bath, replenishing fluids and icing the muscle may help to relieve any residual soreness.

MuscleCramps

To reduce the risk of developing muscle spasms and cramps, stay well hydrated before, during and after exercise. Increase your flexibility by warming up and stretching properly before and after physical activity and remember to work out in accordance with your own fitness level. Routine daily stretching of the calf, the quadriceps and the hamstring muscles may help minimize cramping. Eat a well balanced and nutritious diet, address electrolyte imbalances and make sure you are getting adequate amounts of all essential vitamins and minerals daily.

The following high quality formulas are specifically designed to relieve occasional muscle tension and cramping:

Muscle Cramp/Tension FormulaMuscle Cramp/Tension Formula by Pure Encapsulations – This carefully designed formula offers important electrolytes, soothing herbs and vitamin C to help relieve occasional nighttime leg muscle cramps, overall muscle tension and minor muscle cramps related to physical activity. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation

 

BaxaprinBaxaprin™ by Designs for Health – This calming formula contains vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium and botanicals designed to help relieve occasional muscle tension and cramping related to muscular stress or overuse. Gluten free, vegetarian formulation.

 

Muscle-AidMuscle-Aid by BioGenesis Nutraceuticals – This combination formula of mineral amino acid chelates and vitamins is designed to help control muscle spasms and alleviate cramping, while optimizing energy and providing cardiovascular health support. Natural orange flavored powdered formula easily mixes with food or beverage of choice.

 

Spaz Out Spaz Out® by Metabolic Maintenance – An excellent choice for the physically active, this well-balanced formula is designed to replenish the mineral electrolytes typically found to be deficient in those with muscle cramping. Vegetarian formula.

 

References:
What causes leg cramps?
Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Charley Horse
What are electrolytes?

Muscle Cramps – All Pain No Gain

MusclePainBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

If you have ever experienced a sudden and severe muscle contraction, and the majority of us have, you’ll know just how painful that experience can be.  While muscle cramps generally last only a few seconds to a few minutes, the often surprising and sudden onset and intensity are not as quickly forgotten.  Muscle soreness may remain for several days and it may take up to a week for the muscle to return to a normal, pain free state.  A cramp occurs when a muscle involuntarily contracts and does not release.  Skeletal muscles, which we voluntarily control, are most likely to be affected.  Most often cramping occurs in the calf, hamstring or quadricep muscles but hand and foot cramps are also common. 

Causes of muscle cramping can include muscle fatigue, inadequate stretching, poor conditioning, dehydration and electrolyte depletion. Low levels of potassium and calcium may also cause muscle cramping, as both minerals contribute to healthy muscle function. Those most susceptible to cramping include athletes, who often develop cramps at the end of intense or prolonged exercise, and the elderly due to normal muscle atrophy and the body’s lessened ability to respond to thirst and temperature changes.  Those who are ill, overweight or taking certain medications are also at high risk of cramping. 

True cramps, one of four basic categories of skeletal muscle cramps, are the most common type.  True cramps are most likely the result of hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles and can occur under a variety of circumstances.  These can include:

Injury to the muscle or a broken bone can cause persistent spasms as a protective mechanism to keep the muscle or bone stable in order to recover. 

Strenuous physical activity, overuse of muscles and muscle fatigue can cause cramping during exercise or while at rest many hours later.  Rest cramps, which often strike during the night,  can be painful, frequent and sleep disruptive. 

Dehydration caused by excess fluid loss during vigorous activities increases the likelihood of cramping.  Poor fluid intake, diuretic medications , and sodium depletion are all contributing factors that can result in dehydration. 

Low blood calcium or magnesium levels can directly impact and overstimulate nerve endings and muscles, increasing the predisposition for true muscle cramping.  Low levels of calcium and magnesium can be the result of pregnancy, diuretic medications, inadequate dietary absorption or poorly functioning parathyroid glands, which regulate calcium balance. 

Low potassium blood levels can cause cramping and muscle weakness, as potassium affects the way neuromuscular cells discharge and regenerate energy.  When potassium levels are low, muscles and nerves cannot function properly. 

Vitamin deficiencies including thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6) can also lead to muscle cramping although the exact reasons are unclear. 

Poor circulation, which results in decreased oxygen in the muscle tissue, can cause severe pain and cramping. 

Initially, stretching the muscle will often relieve a cramp especially in the feet and legs.  Gentle muscle massage can help to relax the muscle.  Later on, a warm bath or a heating pad may help relieve the soreness that may follow a cramp or muscle spasm often called a Charlie horse.  Fluid and electrolyte, especially sodium and potassium, replacement is critical for treating or preventing cramping.  If cramping is severe or persistent or not associated with an obvious cause, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, which may require a visit to your healthcare professional.   

To prevent muscle cramping, stretch before and after exercise, hydrate before, during and after the activity, and make sure to get adequate amounts of calcium, potassium and magnesium.  Although cramps are painful, the discomfort is generally short lived.  Giving your muscles a little TLC can prevent or lessen the occurrence of muscle cramping, allowing for a great exercise session or a good night’s sleep. 

Try these products for relief of muscle cramping:

Spaz Out® by Metabolic Maintenance is a balanced mineral formula that is designed to replenish the mineral electrolytes most at risk of deficiency in those with muscle cramping.  Contains calcium, magnesium and potassium and other minerals. 

Muscle Cramp/Tension Formula by Pure Encapsulations contains important electrolytes and soothing herbs to relieve occasional nighttime muscle cramps, minor muscle cramps associated with exercise and overall muscle tension. 

Restore by Heel/BHI is a homeopathic formula for the temporary relief of muscle soreness, burning  and cramping resulting from physical exertion or lactic acid buildup.

Exercise Related Injury Recovery

Exercise Related Injury RecoveryBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

An exercise related injury can happen to anyone regardless of their fitness level.  The cause may be a sudden traumatic event such as a fall, collision or a misstep.  However, many injuries occur gradually and may be due to overuse, unsupportive shoes, or inadequate warm up, stretching or cool down. The most common workout injuries include:

  • Muscle pull or strain – Occurs when a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn, often as a result of overuse or improper use. 
  • Shin splints –  A condition characterized by pain in the lower part of the leg generally caused by repeated trauma to the connective muscle tissue surrounding the shin bone. 
  • Tendonitis – An inflammation of the tendon resulting in painful movement.  Tendonitis is most often caused by overuse or poor body mechanics. 
  • Dislocations – Joint injuries that force the ends of your bones out of position.  The cause is often a fall or blow or direct physical contact with a finger, shoulder or knee joint. 
  • Sprains – Occurs when a ligament is stretched or torn, typically when a joint is subjected to excessive force or unnatural movement.  The degree of severity varies between a stretched ligament and a partially or completely torn ligament. 
  • Stress fractures –  An overuse injury that occurs when muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb added shock.  The overload of stress is transferred to the bone causing a tiny crack.  Most stress fractures are the result of impact, improper equipment or a too rapid increase in intensity.  The majority of stress fractures occur in the lower legs and feet. 
  • Muscle cramps or spasms – Strong and sustained muscle contractions that are generally relieved by gentle stretching. 

Many minor injuries can be treated at home.  Dislocations and torn ligaments require medical assistance.  With lesser injuries, there are three basic phases of recovery:

Immediate post injury.  The first 24 – 48 hours after an injury is referred to as the acute phase.  As quickly as possible after an injury,  follow the RICE program:

  • Rest –  Minimize the movement of the injured body part to give tissues time to heal.
  • Ice –  Icing is a simple and effective way to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling.  Apply an icepack for 10 -15 minutes at a time, every hour for the first four hours.  Then 4 times daily for the next 2 -3 days.  After 48 – 72 hours switch to heat treatments.
  • Compression –  An elastic bandage will help reduce swelling when the injured area is wrapped immediately following an injury.  It should be snug but not too tight.  It may help to pad the injured area before wrapping to allow pressure where it is most needed and relieve pressure stemming from the bandage on area around the injury.
  • Elevation –  Raising the injured part above heart level allows fluid to drain away from injured tissue resulting in reduced pain, swelling and inflammation.
The recovery period.  After you have been pain-free for one week, you can slowly begin active movement.  Once swelling subsides and pain diminishes, you can begin to recover your strength, endurance and range of motion.  Use the same care in your rehabilitation plan that you did in your treatment of the injury.  Practice moderation and start with gentle exercises.  Gradually increase the power and strength of your activity.  Be sure to warm your muscles before exercising, and cool down with ice afterward  if there is any pain or swelling. 
 

The functional phase. This is the time to work toward full recovery and regain your full exercise capacity.  As you begin to test your limits, use pain and swelling as a guide to  how quickly you can increase intensity and length of exercise.  During this phase it is important to take steps to prevent repeat injury.  Consider using a brace for additional support and continue to ice the injured area after exercise for at least an additional week or two.  

Most importantly, continue to engage in some form of exercise while your body heals and recovers from the injury.  Muscle power fades rapidly when muscles are not used.  Be as active as you can without stressing the injured area.  Try a different form of exercise that allows you to continue some activity.  For example, if you’ve injured your shoulder playing tennis, you can walk for exercise.  If you’ve sprained your ankle, do an upper body workout.  Consider a cross-training exercise such as swimming to aid in full strength and endurance recovery. 

A good tip to remember:  Simple injuries can be easily overcome.  The major illnesses that stem from inactivity are not. 

Supplements to aid injury recovery include:

Acute Phase by Metagenics  is designed to provide targeted nutritional muscle tissue support and minor pain relief.  Featuring premium-grade proteolytic enzymes, targeted herbal extracts, and essential minerals,  Acute Phase is the ideal nutritional component for the first three days following an injury. 

Ligament Restore by Pure Encapsulations  combines ingredients found naturally in tendons, ligaments and joints to help strengthen and support the maintenance and natural repair processes of healthy connective tissue.

Arnicare Gel with MDT Pack by Boiron  is a homeopathic formula that temporarily relieves muscle pain and stiffness due to minor injuries, overexertion and falls.  It also reduces pain, swelling and discoloration from bruises.

Injurotox (B-11) by Apex Energetics provides relief of symptoms from injuries to soft tissues or bones either from recent or existing trauma or impact.  Useful for overuse and muscle weakness and rich in homeopathic phytotherapeutics and flower essences, Injurotox is excellent for injury or surgical recovery. 

Muscle-Aid by BioGenesis Neutraceuticals  is an mineral amino acid chelate and vitamin beverage that includes malic acid, taurine, glutamine, L-carnitine, and selenium for optimizing energy support.  Muscle-Aid helps control muscle spasms, alleviates cramping, and supports cardiovascular health.