Muscle cramps: what helps?

Extremely painful muscle cramps can occur during sleep or exercise. Medication, electrical stimulation, and stretching exercises, as well as cucumber water, can help with frequent and severe cramps.

Source : medicalnewstoday.com



Muscle cramps can occasionally occur, for instance at night or during exercise. However, some people experience cramps night after night. A foot frequently deforms into a claw. A muscle spasm can last for several minutes and be excruciatingly painful. Stretching the muscles can sometimes help to stop the spasm. Anyone who experiences frequent muscle cramps or severe pain should consult a doctor.

Causes of muscle cramps often unknown

Muscle cramps can occur as

  • Symptoms of a disease, for example an underactive thyroid , polyneuropathy , diabetes mellitus or muscle inflammation

  • Side effects of certain medications, such as cholesterol inhibitors ( statins ) and antihypertensives . Iron, diuretics and beta blockers can also increase the tendency to cramp.

For a long time, salts (electrolytes) were thought to be primarily responsible for muscle cramping.


However, the nervous system, specifically increased excitability of nerves in the spinal cord, could play an important role. Muscle cramps in the legs occur more frequently when these are irritated, such as by a herniated disc or a narrowing of the spinal canal.


The interaction of nerves and muscles causes cramps.

The issue is most likely caused by the interaction of nerves and muscles. The transmission of stimuli occurs at the ends of the motor nerves, and nerve impulses cause muscle contraction (contraction). Muscles cramp or overreact to normal stimuli when there is uncontrolled discharge.


In many cases, doctors are unable to identify a specific cause of the muscle cramps, and thus no effective treatment is available.


Muscle cramps are frequently thought to be caused by a mineral deficiency, such as a lack of magnesium. Doctors will then frequently prescribe dietary supplements. However, no studies have been conducted to demonstrate sufficient efficacy. It is also important to remember that an excess of minerals can cause cramps, diarrhoea, and heart problems. If you want to see if magnesium relieves cramps, you can take up to 200 milligrammes of magnesium per day for a two-week trial period. It is ineffective if no effect is felt by then.


Electrostimulation therapy for muscle spasms

Researchers at the German Sport University in Cologne stumbled upon a potentially new treatment for muscle cramps - electrostimulation. The sports scientists discovered that the stimulus threshold for muscle cramps increases as a side effect of their research into whether muscles grow as a result of cramps.


The researchers believe that muscle cramps are caused by a faulty reflex in the spinal cord. The research suggests that people who suffer from muscle spasms have an imbalance in the nerve cells that control certain muscles, known as alpha motor neurons. These regulate the brain, causing muscle contractions to increase. A spasm can occur when the brain sends too much information to the alpha motor neuron.


The goal of electrostimulation is to make alpha motor neurons less sensitive to brain stimuli. The so-called seizure threshold was actually increased in a pilot study: the effect lasted for a very long time, and the frequency of spontaneously occurring seizures was significantly reduced.


Massage and tense muscles to relieve muscle spasms

If you only get muscle cramps on occasion, you can break them up by pulling on the affected muscle, either passively massaging and lengthening it with your hand or, better yet, by doing active exercises with tensing of the so-called antagonist, i.e. the opposite muscle. Warm wraps, a hot water bottle placed on the affected area, or a hot bath can also help to relax the muscles.


If the cramp occurs while participating in sports, immediate relief of the affected body part is beneficial. Muscle cramps are frequently caused by water and electrolyte loss combined with overexertion in athletes. Sports physicians therefore recommend taking table salt and drinking isotonic drinks for prevention, warming up the muscles before exercising, and exercising in a manner appropriate to the level of training.


Muscle cramps can be avoided by stretching.

Most people stretch the affected muscles instinctively when they have a cramp. That usually helps to relieve the cramp. Stretching can also help prevent night cramps, for example. Each leg, for example, is stretched three times for ten seconds.


Cucumber water can help with muscle cramps.

A study in Australia discovered that drinking cucumber water cut the duration of cramps in half. Pickle water is the vinegary liquid used to pickle cucumbers. According to the authors, one millilitre of cucumber water per kilogramme of body weight is recommended. Because the effect is supposed to begin immediately, i.e. before the cucumber water can pass through the stomach and be absorbed by the body, it is most likely due to the sour taste in the throat, which could slow down the activity of the nerve cells and thus have an antispasmodic effect.


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