We’ve all been there, the moment when the cramp strikes.
The side stitch or cramp in the abdomen causing you to double over, the foot cramp that twists your arch and toes into a pretzel, or the charley horse down your leg that stops you in your tracks- does any of this sound familiar?
With the proper measures, it’s a moment you don’t have to repeat! Let’s take a brief look at what causes a charley horse, how to prevent them, and the best ways to get muscle cramp relief.
What Causes Cramps?
Maybe you’ve wondered, is what causes foot cramps the same thing that causes cramps in your leg or belly?
- Any cramp is an involuntary muscle contraction, also known as spasms.
- A contracted muscle is an activated one, held with tension like when you’re making a muscle.
- That’s why the spot that’s cramped feels firm and stiff.
There are various causes linked to cramps, such as muscle strain and fatigue, dehydration, or a nutritional deficiency, but there is no exact reasoning. Additionally, some cramps are tied to medical conditions or medications.
So, when you get a cramp, you probably won’t know why or what caused it at that moment. This is why working through a muscle cramp problem may take some trial and error. But, don’t worry; we’ve got a few methods you can try either before a cramp or during one.
How to Prevent Muscle Cramps
If you know you’re going to do physical activity and are prone to cramps, stretch sessions work wonders. Stretching before and after a workout increases range of motion and circulation, plus it reduces muscle tension.
Those are precisely the things we want to prevent cramps. But it doesn’t matter if you’re exercising or not — you can stretch in the mornings when you wake up or at night before bed if that’s when you tend to cramp up.
Your muscles are most willing to stretch when they’re already warmed up and pliable. So, it’s helpful to get your heart rate up with a tiny “workout” before the stretches that precede the workout.
Warm-ups are still helpful on their own. Warm, expectant muscles are happier and more resilient than unsuspecting muscles at rest, even without a full stretch routine. The resulting increased blood flow also works to prevent cramps.
Water powers your cells, your body, your muscles. It really can’t be overstated. This study explores the role of water in muscle quality, contraction, and strength, for example.
Drink water and try to stay hydrated, especially before physical activity or heat exposure. It will be harder to recover in those situations if you’re already dehydrated, and your muscles will be more susceptible to fatigue and cramps.
Get Your Electrolytes
Electrolytes go hand in hand with water as another key element in preventing cramps. They include the minerals:
We get them from food and drink, but an imbalance can cause recurring, sometimes frequent, cramps. It’s important to eat a varied diet, full of different fruits and veggies, to get a good amount of electrolytes. Supplements are also an option.
Don’t Overdo It
Finally, since cramps might also result from muscle strain or fatigue, you should avoid that. It’s not only strenuous exercise that you need to watch out for but rather any repeated or prolonged stress you put on a muscle. It’s why our hands can cramp up just from gripping something very tightly for a while.
Sometimes, you can feel when you’re about to overwork a muscle. If at all possible, release tension before that happens. Let the muscle relax and stretch it a bit.
That won’t always be soon enough to prevent cramping, but it can be effective enough to make a noticeable difference.
How to Stop Cramps
The interesting thing about how to get rid of leg cramps is that it’s very complementary to prevention. Each of these is basically on the flipside of one of the “how to prevent leg cramps” methods above.
Stretch Through It
Since a cramp is a muscle contraction, you’ll naturally want to curl into the pain. But doing the opposite helps bring you out of it.
Holding a gentle stretch (as much as possible amid a cramp) forces the muscle to relax or try to and allows for better circulation to the cramped area.
Warm-ups do precisely what the name implies: warm up your muscles by getting your heart pumping and blood flowing.
After the fact, heat is still beneficial. Not only is it soothing, but it promotes improved blood flow. You can apply heat all over by soaking in an Epsom salt bath (it’s magnesium!) or target one area with a heating pad or damp, warm cloth.
Gently massaging has a similar effect: it soothes, warms, and reduces tension.
Time for Fluids
Drinking water or sports drinks won’t cure your pain on the spot, but it’s essential for preventing another spasm. Be sure to replenish what you’ve lost through sweat.
Aside from hydration, other liquids have their uses, as well.
- Coconut water is a natural electrolyte drink you can choose in place of sugary sports drinks.
- Orange juice is another good source of potassium and magnesium for cramps.
- And for non-workout settings, milk is packed with calcium, potassium, and sodium.
Pickle juice for cramps may be the most effective. Evidence suggests it might cure your cramp in a couple of minutes! It doesn’t do this with electrolytes but by triggering a signal that your brain sends to nerves.
Power Up With Power Snacks
Another way to get magnesium for leg cramps, along with the other electrolytes, is to snack wisely. Reach for bananas, nuts, cantaloupe, and sweet potato or pumpkin. They’re all-natural sources of magnesium, potassium, and calcium. (And avocado is a potassium powerhouse specifically.)
As a bonus, give your muscles a small rest while you stop and munch. By the time you’ve finished a Tupperware of cubed cantaloupe, you should be cramp-free.
Address the Pain
Sometimes a very bad cramp, or trying too hard to power through one, leads to lingering pain. Even after the spasm subsides, you might experience muscle strain for a few hours or into the next day.
In these cases, you should just rest the muscle as much as possible. But it’s also good to get leg cramp relief.
- Organa Kratom is an excellent option to encourage both rest and relief.
- The kratom plant, which interacts with our bodies’ opioid receptors, combines pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant properties.
- It’s like the difference between acetaminophen and ibuprofen. One works in the brain, and one at the site — kratom can benefit you in both ways.
- It also promotes mental relaxation, perfect for helping you take it easy when you need to let a muscle recover.
There’s no one sure trick for how to stop leg cramps immediately or how to keep them at bay indefinitely. We don’t even know the exact reasons cramps suddenly strike in the first place.
But there are plenty of home remedies for leg cramps that do work. They’re simple yet still backed by science. So, the next time you find your muscles in a pinch, try one of these methods, and should all else fail, you can always reach for easy-to-use Organa Kratom to get you through the discomfort.