Many people have experienced leg cramps once in a while but not all of them know how to prevent it from happening.
Here are some quick tips. Start your workout with warm-up and stretching exercises, and finish with cool-down exercises for greater elasticity in the muscles. Replenish your body with fluids, preferably electrolyte drinks, before you feel thirsty.
Take nutritious food with high calcium content in your diet: dairy products, soy products and seaweed. Avoid strong tea and coffee which contribute to calcium loss.
People who are constantly on weight-loss programs may not know it, but dieting causes the loss of overall fat and calcium in the bones. If you often get calf muscle spasms while sleeping, try a foot bath, wear long socks and do some stretching to increase blood circulation before going to bed. Cover your legs with blankets when the air-conditioner is on because cold wind can cause muscle spasms.
If you can feel a looming leg cramp, relax the tight leg muscles by pressing the acupuncture points at the back of the knees or calves for two to three minutes.
During a midnight cramp, stretch and massage the tight muscles gently. You can also alleviate the swollen parts with a hot towel or heat patches afterwards. However, it is not recommended to do counter stretching immediately because it might stimulate the muscles even more.
Some people don’t feel like stretching because of the pain that comes with it. There are actually milder practices that are helpful too. Sit at the side of the bed and wrap the foot of the painful leg with a towel. Straighten the knee gradually while holding the two ends of the towel until the calf starts feeling the stretch. Hold for ten seconds and repeat the exercise ten times.
Another calf stretch practice is standing while facing a wall. Push the wall with two arms and keep them straight. Keep the toes pointed at the wall, then bend the healthy leg and straighten the bad leg. Slowly tilt the torso forward while keeping the feet on the ground until the calf muscles feel the stretch. Hold for ten seconds and repeat the whole set ten times.
If the cramps do not go away, it may be caused by other illnesses like sciatica. In that case, visit the chiropractor or physical therapist immediately.
With appropriate treatments, correct postures, waist strengthening movements and stretching exercises, patients will not be far from a full recovery.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 21
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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