Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Muscle cramps may occur anywhere in the body, but most frequently occur in the legs and feet. Cramps most often come at night, perhaps because breathing is more shallow and slow, and there is a reduction of oxygen supply to the muscles. Reduced oxygen causes increased sensitivity of muscles.
Causes of cramps:
- Poor circulation. The muscles become more sensitive to stimulation if the oxygen supply is low.
- Swelling of the feet; infection or inflammation in the area
- Pregnancy. For reasons unknown, pregnant women often get cramps. The best remedy for them is to bear with it until pregnancy is over. Rub them out when the cramps occur. Do not take anything by mouth for cramps.
- Decreased or increased salts in the blood (iron, sodium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc)
- Irritation of nerves or muscles. There may be small arthritic spurs near a muscle or nerve which irritate it and cause it to be oversensitive.
- Too little or too much exercise. When a muscle is increasing or decreasing in size, it is often more sensitive to nerve stimulation.
- Injury to a muscle. While inflamed the muscle is oversensitive.
- A toxic condition of the body, such as might develop if there is fermentation in the bowel, an allergy, or some toxic food or drug.
- Microemboli from a high fat diet or from atherosclerosis
- Charcoal water soaks to reduce swelling to the part. Use one tablespoon of charcoal to 1 or 2 gallons of water for soaking feet.
- Place a pillow between the knees during sleeping to avoid poor circulation from pressure between related parts that touch each other.
- Use an abundance of green leafy vegetables to insure good mineral content in the diet. Many people feel that their leg cramps are due to a lack of calcium in the diet. However, calcium deficiency is a rare cause of muscle cramps, and is usually associated with other serious symptoms. Yet, since calcium is a muscle relaxer, pharmacologically, many people get relief from cramps by using therapeutic doses of calcium. This practice, however, carries the risk of stones forming in various tissues.
- Apply heat to the affected area. A heating pad may be all that is needed. Some will need alternating hot and cold compresses. Apply hot for 6 minutes and cold for 30 seconds. Make 4 changes. On the first day as many as 4 treatments may be needed to reduce inflammation of the area.
- A heating compress is often helpful. Apply an ice cold cloth over the affected area and cover with a larger piece of plastic to prevent evaporation. Wrap snugly with a large scarf and pin in place to prevent loss of the heat that develops. Wear overnight.
- For toxins, 2 to 8 tablets of charcoal daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use measures to reduce swelling in the feet - walking, drinking water, reducing salt, and wrapping legs in elastic at night.
- Implement a fat-free, sugar-free diet
Certain exercises are beneficial:
- Standing on tiptoes and walking about carpeted room
- Rolling a bottle under the foot
- Walking on outer edges of feet several minutes daily
- Several hours daily of walking or labor outdoors
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