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Understanding Spasms and Cramps: This Spasm is Cramping my Smile

December 13, 2018

 

 

A muscle spasm goes by many names; A cramp, charley horse, knot, or even a trigger point. It can take you by surprise any day, any time; waking you in your sleep, striking you while you’re out for a walk or run, or even sitting at your desk. Nearly everyone can share the experience of an unwelcome spasm, but the reason it occurs and the remedy is less obvious.

 

Causes

A spasm is an involuntary, and often painful, contraction of muscles. The causes vary and are worth becoming aware of as it may be an indicator of your health.  Following are some possible reasons you could be experiencing cramps:

  • Stress

  • Dehydration

  • Tight muscles

  • Tissue injury

  • Poor circulation

  • Lack of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D & E, and other nutritional imbalances

  • Pregnancy

  • Endocrine disorders

  • Certain Medications

  • Alcoholism or other recreational drug use

While often painful, not all spasms are bad; a spasm may even be doing you some good.  Muscles often contract in response to an injury in the attempt to prevent further injury. In this case, seek the assistance of your doctor or physiotherapist. Other causes that require medical attention include:

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Kidney failure

Remedies

 

1.Contract the Opposing Muscles

When a painful spasm hits all you want to do is stop it, and you can do so with a simple release technique called Agonist Contraction, which is when you engage the opposite muscles.  

How it works

  1. Contract the opposing muscle against resistance until the spasm ceases.

  2. Then using your hand or a hard surface such as a wall, passively stretch the muscle that was in spasm.

Example: If the back of your right calf is in spasm, stack your left foot on top of the right foot and with your muscle strength, pull the toes of your right foot up towards your face until the spasm ceases. Once the pain is gone, stretch the calf by standing facing a wall and placing the ball of your foot on the wall while keeping your heel on the ground. This will stretch the back of your calf and reduce the possibility of another spasm. 

What is happening: you are contracting the front of your calf, which in turn stretches the back of your calf, therefore relieving the muscle spasm. Stretching the spasming muscle can be the trick to halting the spasm on the spot.

 

 

2.Hydrate

Stay hydrated throughout the day with clean water, especially on a hot day, after drinking alcohol, and when experiencing diarrhea or vomiting.

 

3.Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom salts are high in magnesium that can help soothe sore muscles, reduce stress, and replenish your magnesium levels.

 

4.Nutritional Supplements

Speak with your Naturopathic Doctor about nutritional supplements that will support healthy muscle function.  

 

5.Massage

Book a therapeutic massage to relieve stress, muscle tension, muscle pain, increase circulation and improve your mobility. Self-massage and stretch for immediate relief.

 

6.Warm-Up and Stretch Before Physical Activity 

Prior to physical activity, do warm-up exercises that raise your heart rate, followed by light stretching. This improves circulation and prepares your body for the activity, avoiding injury and spasm. Stretch after to help avoid muscle tension from the activity. Afterall, stretching is the dessert of a workout.

 

7.Improve Posture

Remaining in the same posture for prolonged periods of time can resulting in spasm. Seek ergonomic desks, chairs, and shoes to support your posture. Avoid slouching and move regularly to keep the blood flowing and keep your muscles from weakening.  

 

8.Support Your Feet in Bed

Night calf cramps may be due to heavy blankets pushing your feet into a pointed position, shortening your calves. Try placing a pillow or rolled up towel at the bottom of your feet to stop them from being flattened and causing pain.

 

9.Acupuncture

This ancient form of healing has long been used for all kinds of body aches and pains. Ask you acupuncturist or Naturopath if they think this could be helpful for you.

 

10.Trigger Point Injection Therapy

For those more stubborn trigger points, consider seeing your Naturopath Doctor for trigger point injections. This technique can deliver help right to the point that needs it most.

 In general, keep moving, drink your water, ensure you are getting the nutrition you need and speak with your Massage Therapist or Naturopathic Doctor for more insight into the cause and how you can improve your muscle function.

 

Resources

 

Kuntzman, J. Andrew; Tortora, J. Gerard (2010). Anatomy and Physiology for the Manual Therapies. United States. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

 

Rattray, Fiona; Ludwig, Linda (2005). Clinical Massage Therapy. Canada. Talus Incorporated

 

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