What is a muscle cramp?
Muscle cramp is very common mostly among athletes and those who work out. However, it can also occur to normal people as well. But there is nothing alarming about muscle cramps except that it is quite painful when one gets a cramp. A muscle cramp is an involuntary and painful contraction of the muscle forming a knot. This happens especially on the calves or the hamstring. This can last for a few seconds or minutes and can easily be managed by stretching the affected area.
How does it occur?
This muscle cramp occurs mostly when the body is exerted more than normal. For instance if one exercises extra or does extra hard work the muscle gets tired and can get cramped. On the other hand it can also happen due to improper nutrition, insufficient conditioning and in certain cases even genetic susceptibility. It also is a result of deficiency in potassium, calcium or magnesium and even poor blood circulation.
For those having diabetes, spinal nerve compression, restless legs syndrome, kidney failures, pregnancy and alcoholics muscle cramps are a common occurrence.
But the good news is that these muscle cramps can easily be avoided if you have a fixed work out chart and have a well-balanced nutritious diet plan.
Here are a few tips on how to treat muscle cramps at home
After you have stretched the muscle and feel relief from pain a cold compress can be used to ease the sore muscles. This cold compression will reduce the pain and soreness and numb the muscle so it can relax. To apply cold compressions use a hand towel and a handful of ice cubes. Wrap these cubes in the towel and apply it over the affected muscle area for 10 to 15 minutes.
Use epsom salt
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium and hence it can be used when treating muscle cramps. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to your bath water and stir thoroughly. Soak in this water for 15 to 20 minutes or till you find relief. Note: Those suffering with diabetes, cardiac problems or high levels of blood pressure should refrain from using Epsom salt.
Clove oil has anaesthetic as well as anti-inflammatory properties that help in the reduction of pain from muscle cramps and hence it is useful. Make some clove oil warm over a fire and apply and rub it over the affected muscle area. Gently massage the affected area using firm strokes for 5 minutes. The process can be repeated if necessary.
Apple cider vinegar
This is rich in potassium and hence it helps to reduce and relief victims of muscle cramps. As mentioned earlier muscle cramps occur due to low levels of potassium in the body. Besides reducing the pain it also controls the body’s fluid balance keeping the body hydrated. One tablespoon of cider vinegar should be added to a cup of warm water and this tonic should be taken in once a day to avoid muscle cramps.
What foods are good to avoid muscle cramps and what foods to be avoided
Though this is not a major issue as one can have potassium rich foods and stay away from muscle cramps. However, here is a short list of foods that can help prevent cramps.
Foods rich in potassium
Foods like sweet potatoes, bananas, white beans, yogurt and broccoli are rich in potassium and hence they can boost the intake of potassium to the body.
Foods rich in calcium
Since low calcium levels in the body can result in muscle cramps one can have turnip greens, sardines, cheese, leafy greens, yogurt and milk.
The body loses a lot of sodium when you sweat especially during hard work or excess exercise. To keep the right levels of salt in the body it’s advisable to take some energy drinks that have salt added or munch on pretzels.
Beverages and foods rich in carbohydrates
If workouts and exercise competitions are taking more than an hour then foods rich in carbohydrates should be taken. With lack of carbohydrate the occurrence of depletion of glycogen is possible. In order to strengthen the muscle the glycogen levels should be increased to avoid cramping.