By Nurse Mark
A popular North American colloquial term for painful spasms or cramps in the leg muscles, typically lasting anywhere from a few seconds to as much as a day.
We’ve all had them. As kids and as teenagers during or following strenuous sports, as adults after a hard day of labor, or just for no good reason at all – when you least expect it a muscle rebels, going into a painful cramp. It’s not always leg muscles either – hands and feet cramp, intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs) cramp, shoulder muscles cramp. In reality, any muscle can cramp and often for no apparent reason.
And boy, do they hurt!
So what can be done?
Common advice involves gently stretching the affected muscle. Personally I’ve never had much luck with that one…
Dehydration is sometimes blamed. Drink lots of water and “sports drinks” we’re told. Yeah, maybe – or maybe not. Still, staying well-hydrated is important, even if it isn’t the entire answer.
“Electrolytes” are often blamed. There may be some truth in that, though the solution to the problem does not lie in the consumption of sugar-laced, artificially-flavored, chemical-filled neon green or blue “sports drinks” – no matter how compelling that TV ad with the basketball player sweating green stuff was…
Minerals are essential to the effective and correct functioning of our muscles. That is why Dr. Myatt formulated her Maxi Multi Optimal Dose Daily Multivitamin to include generous amounts of all the necessary minerals and trace minerals needed for good health.
However, minerals each have different functions and effects on our muscles and their potential to cramp.
For example, back in the bad ol’ days before Big Pharma gave us The Little Purple Pill and other PPI drugs, sufferers from peptic ulcers would often take an alkali such as bicarbonate of soda to relieve the symptoms, and wash it down with milk. This caused the calcium in the milk to precipitate out, while the phosphate was digested. This often caused “milk-and-alkali tetany” resulting in cramps of the wrists and hands (carpal spasm) or legs (pedal spasm) caused by an electrolyte imbalance. The treatment? Don’t do that! (and correct your GERD naturally, once and for all, without drugs! Learn how here.)
Then there’s Potassium – necessary for correct muscle function, too much or too little can cause heart arrhythmia.
We all know that calcium is important for bone health – but it’s also vital to the normal function of virtually every cell in our bodies. Too little calcium or too much calcium can be very problematic though – too much and arrhythmias can develop, too little and muscles become irritable and cramps can occur.
Lowly sodium – salt – is vital to our continued good health. Too much though and muscle weakness can occur. Too little and muscular spasms and cramps can happen. Hypernatremia (too much sodium) is usually not caused by eating an excess of salt, but rather by a relative deficit of free water in the body. For this reason, hypernatremia is often synonymous with the less precise but better known term, dehydration. Hyponatremia (too little sodium) can be cause by drinking too much water or by medical conditions that cause the body to retain water.
Fortunately most people regulate these important minerals quite naturally – in fact, we have a fairly narrow range within which these minerals must be balanced and our bodies maintain this range quite nicely for us. We almost never hear of anyone needing to supplement sodium – quite the opposite, conventional medicine is constantly warning us away from this important mineral. Many Americans are not getting optimal amounts Calcium and potassium from diet and for that reason Dr. Myatt includes an optimal dose of calcium and the maximum allowed dose of potassium in Maxi Multi Vitamins.
Magnesium is another story. 57% of the US population does not meet the US RDA for dietary intake of magnesium. Too little magnesium quickly leads to muscles being hyper excitable and prone to cramps. Dr. Myatt formulated Maxi Multi vitamins with a generous amount of magnesium, but because our diets are so deficient in this mineral and because our muscles need so much of it even that sometimes isn’t enough – especially after strenuous physical activity. A painful “Charley Horse” is often the result.
But there is a quick “first aid” treatment that you can do when a Charley Horse strikes.
The topical form of magnesium — magnesium oil — is quick, clean and convenient, working in a fast-acting manner to relive muscle aches and pains.
Yes, it really works!
There is still very little medical research on magnesium oil. We discussed it previously in HealthBeat News – Magnesium… Oil? To Relieve Muscle Cramps? – and not much has changed from that article except that Dr. Myatt and I have been using it personally for almost every ache and pain and cramp you can imagine. And it really works!
Dr. Myatt had a foot cramp in bed one night. She rubbed some magnesium oil on, and the cramp disappeared.
I had a “side stitch” – a painful spasm of an intercostal muscle – that was bugging me after a run one day. Dr. Myatt saw me trying to stretch it out and suggested I try magnesium oil. You guessed it – I rubbed some in and the cramp quickly eased up and disappeared.
Dr. Myatt developed a sharp spasm in a pectoral (chest) muscle after some gardening – but an application of magnesium oil chased it away promptly.
I’ve been having a bit of a cranky hip after my morning runs – but I rub in some magnesium oil before and after my run and that crankiness isn’t so cranky any more.
I know, I know – these are all “personal testimonials” – not scientific evidence or proof. But while we are waiting for conventional medicine to discover this handy, safe treatment for common cramps, why not try some for yourself – and send us your story. Tell us how it worked for you, for your kids (or grandkids) or your teammates.
Oh, and here’s a tip: Our magnesium oil comes in a pump spray bottle – very convenient. But, because this is a very concentrated salt solution, not an oil, residue of it will dry on the spray head and block it. Try rinsing the spray head under running water for a moment after each use to keep the nozzle clear and ready for the next use. If it gets really blocked, try soaking it in plain tap water and pumping plain tap water through it to clean the spray head.
References and further reading:
“Nutrient Intakes Percent of population 2 years old and over with adequate intakes based on average requirement“. Community Nutrition Mapping Project. 2009-07-29.
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