This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Aram Nalbandyan! You should check out his website here.
Most people don’t differentiate among the different types of muscle cramps. They just know that it hurts, and quite frankly, that’s enough. What most people also don’t realize is that many muscle cramps can be prevented and treated with natural remedies. You can go to work, go on a run, take a swim, chase the kids around the living room (or the dog), and not be in fear of a sudden sharp pain. First things first…
Different Types of Cramps
When we’re talking about muscle cramps, we’re talking about the musculoskeletal system or skeletal muscles. It’s important to be specific because your organs also consist of muscle tissue. It’s just smooth muscle. Generally speaking, you don’t hear of someone’s liver or lungs cramping.
There are different types of muscle cramps. How do we know that they’re different? They are not all necessarily caused by the same thing and different muscle groups tend to be affected. So, what are they?
These types of cramps affect single muscles or a group of muscles that act in concert. They’re considered the most common types of cramps and are generally caused by over-excited nerves. Such cramping can also occur after an injury or strenuous exercise, even after you’ve stopped doing the exercise. This is especially true if you become dehydrated. Also within the category of “true” cramps are resting cramps, which can occur very inconveniently (and sometimes quite painfully) in your sleep.
It can be hard to tell whether a tetanic cramp is indeed that or a true cramp. They can feel pretty much the same. Tetanic cramps occur when all nerve cells are activated, thereby signaling the muscle cells. Muscle spasms and cramps can occur throughout the body in this case. Sometimes low calcium and low magnesium can affect nerve behavior such that it causes tetanic cramps.
These types of cramps almost seem counterintuitive. Muscles that are not actually needed to perform whatever movement you are performing actual contract. Oftentimes, it’s even a muscle used for the opposite movement.
Cramping can be quite painful, and it’s very easy to just take some medication to make it go away so you can get on with your day. Your work doesn’t stop for a cramp. Your kids still need you when you have a cramp. You’re only halfway into your workout when you get a cramp. It can literally and figuratively be a pain. The downside to taking medications like ibuprofen regularly (which has a time and place) is that it builds up in the body system such that you can build a resistance of sorts. It’s possible that you will need to take more and more for it to be effective. In addition, such consistent use of ibuprofen (and ibuprofen based medications) can be harmful to your liver.
Generally speaking, a proper balanced diet can go a long way to reduce cramping. Foods rich in magnesium can help relax the muscles, and things like a tea of chamomile and fennel leaves can help minimize muscle spasms if taken regularly. Chances are, though, that if you have chronic muscle spasms or muscle cramping, you might need a little extra TLC.
The Power of Herbs
Something I like pointing out every now and again is that the medicines made by pharmaceutical companies, for a variety of ailments, had herbal precursors. Granted, there are many past medical practices that have been proven ineffectual by science (and to be honest, were a bit odd…leeches anyone?), but the administering of medicinal herbs are not among those practices. There are a number of herbal and natural remedies that can help alleviate muscle spasms, and the pain that accompanies them:
- Cramp bark is one such remedy. If you have muscle spasms or feel one coming on, taking cramp bark can be quite effective.
- Passion flower can help relax your muscles and will help you relax overall. It also lowers blood pressure.
- Wild yam is an anti-inflammatory and can help alleviate cramping.
- Celery seed (and celery) is an anti-inflammatory and can lower blood pressure as well as relax spastic muscles.
- Rosemary is another beneficial herb (and quite a tasty one too).
- Goldenrod is also rather effective and can help with other ailments too (like high blood pressure).
There are quite a number of natural remedies that will help alleviate cramping muscles, but never underestimate the importance of a well-balanced diet. Any deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can increase the likelihood of muscle spasms, so make sure you have a well-rounded diet and are taking supplements, if necessary. Stay well-hydrated and well-nourished, and if you get a cramp, you can turn to any number of natural remedies.
As always, please consult with your doctor regarding medicines (herbal or otherwise) and dosage. Your doctor knows you and can provide personal advice regarding any course of action you may take.
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