Many of us have experienced leg cramping in our lives. Often referred to as a “Charley Horse”, leg cramps generally occur at night while sleeping, but can occur more often or at different times of the day. The pain is excruciating as the muscle seems to pulsate with burning and stabbing. The pain can last for seconds, but sometimes longer. No position seems to improve the pain and often times all one can do is wait it out and breathe through the pain.

Causes: What causes this severe pain to occur?

According to Webmd1:

Many things can trigger a muscle cramp. They include:

  • Poor blood circulation in your legs
  • Working calf muscles too hard while exercising
  • Not stretching enough
  • Being active in hot temperatures
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
  • A problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck or back

Prevention: What are some easy things to do to prevent a “Charlie Horse” from recurring in the future?

Often circulation into the legs and certainly a “pinched nerve” can each be addressed by a Structural Chiropractor. Structural Chiropractic assesses the nervous system using specific x-rays, examination and if a vertebra is out of alignment this will lead to inflammation. Inflammation surrounding the nerves are problematic as the brain talks to the body via the nervous system. The brain and spinal cord constitute the central nervous system. From the spinal cord are nerves that branch out going to the organs, tissues, muscles and cells called the peripheral nervous system. If there is a communication breakdown between the central and peripheral nervous system due to a misalignment in the spinal cord putting pressure on the surrounding nerves and tissues the effects can cause global problems. Most importantly is to get your spine and nervous system checked to make sure everything is in the proper alignment. Once the spine is properly aligned the brain can then talk to the body, function properly and heal itself.

Exercising -

Working out in hot weather can lead to more muscle cramping and therefore staying hydrated can help1. Keeping a cool towel nearby and also knowing your limits with exercising in hot weather is important. There are many kinds of exercises from yoga to circuit training, but one common issue is that many try to push their limits; able to lift five pounds one day and the next going to seven instead. Setting goals and hitting them is important, but know your limits as well. Don’t overdo it either. If just starting out on an exercise program you want to make sure that you don’t over do it. Working up to things is important, but if you start feeling discomfort stop the exercise. The next time you attempt that exercise start on a lower weight than what you ended on and slowly work your way back up again. Trying different types of exercises is important for your body’s conditioning, makes working out more entertaining adding variety and will work out different muscle groups. The calves are involved with many exercises so just focusing on one body area at a time, such as shoulders or back exercises can help you stay on top of your exercise routine while resting the more often used calf muscles.

Water and Nutrition -

It is extremely important to stay hydrated even when you are not working out. A recent study by the CDC and Institute of Medicine2 stated only about 30% of men and 34% of women drink the recommended amount of water each day. These amounts are 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women2. Making sure to stay hydrated will help. Nutrition is also important as vitamin and minerals are necessary to make sure the muscles are working properly. If one lacks in Magnesium and Potassium these can lead to muscle cramping1. It is therefore important to eat foods with these vital nutrients. Avocado is loaded with potassium it is a healthy fat and delicious with many foods3. Magnesium rich foods can be found in spinach, almonds, and avocado again4. Follow these instructions and your muscle cramps should disappear or improve substantially.

Follow these instructions and your muscle cramps should disappear or improve substantially.

References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/muscle-spasms-cramps-charley-horse#1 Opens in new window
  2. By E. J. MUNDELL HEALTHDAY April 26, 2016, 5:38 PM Are Americans drinking enough water every day? https://www.cbsnews.com/news/are-americans-drinking-enough-water-every-day/ Opens in new window
  3. http://sim.stanford.edu/resources/smg_patient_info/POTASSIUM9-09.pdf Opens in new window
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ Opens in new window