Muscle spasms occur for several reasons, from inactivity to poor nutrition. So, the first thing is to try and understand what is causing the spasm. And second is to understand how to treat and stop it from happening. Unfortunately, it is hard to know what to do if you don’t know why. And when someone tells you to eat a banana to relax the spasm, well, nutrition may not be the reason.
What are muscle spasms and cramps?
Muscle spasms and cramps are basically the same. But with a spasm, it is usually an involuntarily forceful contraction of your muscle that will not relax. However, you can voluntarily invoke a spasm through a muscular contraction, for instance, by contracting your calves, curling your toes, rotating your spine. Many times, a spasm can happen because of possible strength deficiency. So, when you contract, it sends too strong of a signal to prevent injury due to weakness.
What causes muscle spasms and cramps?
Muscle spasms can be caused in many ways. Sometimes it is from low electrolytes like potassium and magnesium. Here are many ways spasms and cramps occur.
- Being inflexible where the muscles cannot stretch properly creates tension and shortens and contracts more.
- Muscular fatigue.
- Dehydration and exercising in the heat cause a loss of electrolytes.
- When your nervous system fires off a big impulse that causes your body to twitch, creating a reflex reaction like when being stressed.
- Poor blood supply to muscles.
- Too much exercise or overtraining, overusing your muscles.
- Sitting poorly over a long of a period of time affects your posture. When muscles cannot maintain position and alignment of the joint and are forced to contract.
- Standing too much on concrete with bad orthopedic shoes like hard-soled shoes.
Ways to treat a spam or cramp?
First things first, relax. Relaxing your nervous system will be beneficial because the nervous system controls everything. Secondly, you have to send the right message to your muscles.
- Slowly stretch your muscles. Never force the stretch. Forcing creates tension, which may be why it is spasming, sending it further into cramping.
- Massage the spasm. Use trigger point massage from your fingers. Find the tight muscle area caused by the spasm. Slowly push your finger, thumb, into the tension. You will feel some pain. Hold the area for 10-20 seconds, then release the point. Repeat about three times. As you apply pressure over time, you will notice the muscle relaxes more, the muscle starts to become more pliable. Again, using too muscle force is counterproductive.
- You can also stretch the muscle and then do the trigger point work on the stretched muscle simultaneously.
- Do contrast therapy. Contrast therapy applies cold and heat alternatively to a muscle cramp or spasm. Start with heat for about 10 minutes. The heat will relax the muscle. Then apply cold for 10 minutes. The cold will constrict the muscle. The idea is to flush the muscle of any inflammation and build-up of any fluid that exerts pressure in the muscle. It helps the muscle relax and bring in new blood and nutrients. Always end on heat.
- You can use rollers that help massage and flatten out the muscle.
How to prevent muscle spasms?
Here are several things you can do to prevent them.
- Stretch your muscles regularly.
- Do strength training.
- Drink water and fluids regularly and frequently.
- Avoid overconsumption of stimulants that send unnecessary impulses through your nervous system.
- Hydrate when exercising in warm/ hot weather.
- Avoid wearing flat-soled or hard-soled shoes often, and wear shoes that fit well.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. The electrolytes will promote balance and less cramping.
- Stand up every 15-20 minutes, walk around and stretch to reset your posture and system.
- If you are standing too much, sit down and relax your feet to stop cramping.
Just remember, try to understand what is causing the spasm or cramp. Therefore, you can treat it appropriately. If you are unsure of the cause, then make sure you create balance in your diet, activity, and stress levels