Have you ever been abruptly awoken because your calf muscles felt like they were completely locked? How about being stopped right in your tracks because your muscles are aching?
At some point, we all experience muscle cramps, and the likelihood of them occurring increases with age. That’s because we decrease our activity levels.
Luckily, muscle cramps aren’t life-threatening, but they are super painful and can prevent you from moving temporarily. So, you will want to know how to relieve muscle cramps so you can get back to doing what you love.
What Is a Muscle Cramp and How Is It Caused?
Before we get into the remedies for muscle cramps, it’s important to understand what they are and how they are caused. A muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. Common causes of muscle cramps include excessive exercise, not enough exercise, physical labor, hot weather, vitamin deficiencies, poor circulation, and even certain medications and medical conditions.
Natural Remedies for Painful Muscle Cramps
Stretching: It may seem impossible to stretch a cramping muscle, but doing so will offer quicker relief. If you experience cramps in your legs or calves, walking around or performing leg stretches will generally help. You can also speak to your doctor or physiotherapist about other types of stretches.
Massaging: Doing it yourself or going for regular massages will keep muscles soft and less tense.
Heat: Soaking in a hot bath or applying a heating pad to a cramping muscle will ease the pain. For greater relief, add some Epsom salt into your hot bath, as it contains magnesium that is known to reduce muscle cramps. You can even soak a towel in hot water and apply Epsom salt to it.
Stay hydrated: Dehydration can lead to an increase of muscle cramps, so as a treatment and preventative measure, ensure you are staying well hydrated. This is particularly important on hot days when you are more likely to sweat. If you’re experiencing a muscle cramp, you may also want to opt for a sports drink, as they contain electrolytes.
Cold compress: Apply cold compresses to reduce inflammation. This can be done by putting ice cubes in a zip lock back and covering it with a towel or taking a cold shower.
Epsom salt: Soak in a bath with some Epsom salt for about 20 minutes. Epsom salt contains magnesium which helps promote muscle relaxation.
Although muscle cramps are painful, you don’t need to suffer through them if you follow these natural remedies.
Foods That Reduce Muscle Cramps
Eating these foods can help reduce the risk of muscle cramps.
Bananas: Bananas are high in potassium, magnesium, and calcium which are all vital nutrients to prevent muscle cramps.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are similar to bananas nutritionally but actually possess higher levels of calcium. Their skin also contains water to promote hydration.
Avocado: Avocados possess more potassium than bananas and sweet potatoes work as a great alternative to mayonnaise or butter.
Beans and Lentils: Beans and lentils are packed with magnesium along with being high in fiber.
Melons: Melons have potassium, calcium, magnesium, and a little bit of sodium, which when consumed after a workout, can help prevent muscle soreness. Melons can also help promote hydration, and dehydration is a risk factor for muscle cramps.
Dark, Leafy Greens: Dark leafy greens are high in calcium and magnesium which can help prevent muscle cramps.
Orange Juice: Fortified orange juice contains high levels of magnesium and calcium.
Nuts and Seeds: Nuts and seeds are high in magnesium and some nuts contain calcium as well.
Salmon: Salmon contains magnesium and sodium. Sardines and trout are also healthy options to prevent muscle cramps if you don’t like salmon.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are high in potassium and water.
Apple cider vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is high in potassium and a common cause of muscle cramps is low potassium. Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with water and drink it daily.
Muscle cramps can be painful, but with proper stretching and nutrition, you can have greater success in reducing the risk of muscle cramps.
Related: Top 12 natural muscle relaxers to fix aches and pains