Suddenly a sportsman is wracked with pain as if he has been shot by an enraged fan or rival.
But Andy Murray is not the only Sports Star to suffer in this way – he just gets teased about it in the Press. His Tennis rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are also reported to suffer from muscle cramps of startling pain and suddenness.
As seen in this video…
Muscle cramps can be suffered by just about any athlete or even non-athlete. I used to have occasional leg cramps just before falling asleep. And when I ran my Osteopathy Clinic I generally treated my patients who complained of back pain as if the muscles beside the spine were in spasm and their stubborn back pain rapidly resolved.
What Causes All This Pain?
If you investigate the cause of muscle cramps you find that many different ideas are put forward with nobody really knowing why leg or body cramps occur.
A muscle cramp or spasm is a simple event really and it is surprising that scientists are still scratching their heads about it.
Naturopathically pain is regarded as a cry from the body for more oxygen and more blood. At the level of individual muscle fibres a muscle contracts when calcium is supplied and relaxes when magnesium is supplied.
In my clinic I used a mixture of heat techniques, manual treatment and mineral therapy to resolve issues with muscle cramps.
Some of the Remedies for Muscle Cramps
Sitting in the front row I was in a good position to see what happened. We were all sitting in an anatomy lecture being delivered by Dr. Tukmachi who was a Surgeon and researcher. One of my fellow Osteopathy students suddenly cried our as her lower leg went into spasm.
Luckily she was really close to Dr. Tukmachi who saw what the issue was and asked her permission to fix it. A quick nod gave permission and a fast manipulation that stretched the calf muscle ended the cramps and the pain instantly.
Stretching a cramped muscle stops the contraction.
Treating back pain manually needs a slightly different approach but the essential fact of stretching can be applied with methods we call Soft tissue techniques of which there are many.
A massage may do the same and it helps to use Olive oil or other massage or Aromatherapy oil. Warming the oil slightly helps too!
Warm and Cold
The first treatment that we all think of when a football player hits trouble is the application of cold by using a wet sponge. Cold works whether we use cold water or ice.
But heat works too. We can apply heat simply by using a hot towel and even alternate application of hot and cold.
What all this achieves is a boost to the circulation and drainage of the part of the body involved. We can do this at home with what is called contrast bathing.
One version of this can be done in the shower – just use the controls of a shower and run cold water, hot water, cold water etc in cycles of say 15 seconds of cold and 45 seconds of hot and end with whichever one leaves you feeling the freshest!
This powerfully boosts circulation and especially drainage simply by the repeated cycles of hot and cold pumping the lymph vessels and removing any waste products arising from muscle damage or bruising.
A cycle of hot and cold towels can achieve the same. One slight warning this kind of contrast therapy looks very simple and intuitive but is extremely powerful and needs to be done with care and respect.
Minerals and Muscles
The basic operation of a muscle cells is that it needs a Calcium ion for it to contract and a magnesium ion to relax. Since any normal use of a muscle is a series of contractions and relaxations magnesium and calcium need to be present in the body in the right amounts.
One of my favourite treatment methods used in my Osteopathy Clinic was to use mineral tablets. My absolute favourite tablet was called "PPMP" and was made by the Australian company Blackmore's.
PPMP was a mix of Potassium Phosphate and Magnesium Phosphate and was the star of a range of mineral medicines formulated by Maurice Blackmore who was a Naturopath and founder of the company.
In general terms Potassium Phosphate calmed the nervous system and Magnesium Phosphate acted to relax the muscles.
Working together PP and MP achieved surprisingly powerful results over a range of disorders and condition. PP helped to reduce anxiety and shock and when combined with MP helps to relax and sooth the patient.
An added bonus is they were produced as small tablets that "melt in the mouth" and don't really need to be swallowed making them ideal for kids and even adults who balk at swallowing tablets!
Speculation that electrolytes are involved in muscle cramps is obvious. Muscles going into spasm involves calcium and magnesium and other ions and the fact that many such incidents occur in hot weather when the individual concerned has lost a lot of electrolytes by sweat gives support to the idea.
Cramps occurring at night clearly have another cause, pregnancy cramps also.
And then there are stories about pickle juice!
Apparently a sip of pickle juice works to stop the cramps. It may be the salt that boosts sodium depleted by sweat from excessive heat or exertion that explains this odd and rather funny home remedy.
Vitamin B also. This is a new remedy to me and is mentioned here
Do Muscle Spasms Cramp Your Style?
Sorry for the pun but if cramps are a problem for you then try these remedies. Work through them and take notes on what works and what does not. Whether you are an athlete like Andy Murray, a pregnant Mom or just an average guy like me cramps really can be painful and scary.
Try the minerals, massage or maybe just the pickle – the truth is out there and you will find a remedy that works for you, if you look for it and try things out.