Yes, cramps can turn us into Ninjas. Specially the cramps that occur in the calf muscles. Strangely these usually happen in sleep, during the early morning hours [that’s why they are called ‘night cramps’]. Sometimes they can also affect the feet.
I’ve had these cramps a few times and from my experience, when the cramp is happening, there’s not much you can do except try your best to not scream and wake the entire household or neighbourhood. For some people, stretching the muscle during the cramp gives relief, but I do not attempt anything so heroic. For me, the cramps have usually lasted for a few seconds [seem so much longer], so I just wait for them to pass and then I go back to sleep. Since night cramps are caused by some mineral deficiencies, the morning after a cramp usually has me evaluating my diet to identify what I’ve been missing [or should be avoiding].
We can’t say with certainty that we know what causes cramps… but these could be the possible reasons:
- Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium or Sodium deficiency
- Exercising [and not stretching your muscles enough]
- Keeping feet in an awkward position for long
- Diabetes, Alcoholism, Pregnancy, Hypothyroidism
- Sudden change in temperature
What to do to prevent them
- Hydrate: be sure to drink at least 2 litres of water per day
- Nutrition: Include enough fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and also include enough sources of potassium, calcium and magnesium
- Potassium: Bananas, spinach, mushrooms
- Calcium: Nuts, broccoli, sesame, almonds, spinach
- Magnesium:Nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, avaocados.
- Make sure to stretch your muscles well after a work-out and also stretch your feet before going to bed
- Do not tuck your feet under a heavy blanket or tight sheets. Keeping your feet in the same position for long can cause muscle cramps
- Take a vitamin E and magnesium supplement [also does wonders for your skin]
- Massaging the calves and feet with magnesium enriched oil before sleeping also helps
- Apple cider vinegar is also known to help prevent muscle cramps. Have two spoons a day or add it to your salad dressing
- Get enough sunlight so that you are not low on vitamin D. Aim for sun exposure for 10 – 15 minutes 3 times a week, before 10am.
These are some of the things that help to reduce the frequency and intensity of cramps. Have you tried anything else that has worked for you?