Most muscle spasms and cramps are involuntary contractions of a muscle and leg cramps are no different. A serious muscle spasm doesn’t release on its own and requires manual stretching to help relax and lengthen the shortened muscle. Spasms and cramps can be mild or extremely painful. While they can happento any skeletal muscle, they are most common in the legs and feet and muscles that cross two joints (the calf muscle, for example). Cramps can involve part of a muscle or all the muscles in a group and the most commonly affected muscle groups are:
- Back of lower leg / calf (gastrocnemius).
- Back of thigh (hamstrings).
- Front of thigh (quadriceps).
- Feet, hands, arms, abdomen
Muscle cramps range in intensity from a slight twitch or tic to severe pain. A cramped muscle can feel rock-hard and last a few seconds to several minutes or longer. It is not uncommon for cramps to ease up and then return several times before they go away entirely.
The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the most common theories include:
- Altered neuromuscular control
- Electrolyte depletion
- Poor conditioning
- Muscle fatigue
While cramps can go away on their own it helps to:
- Stop the activity that caused the cramp.
- Gently stretch and massage the cramping muscle.
- Hold the joint in a stretched position until the cramp stops.
- Drink plenty of water
- Increase salt intake
When I have woken up with leg cramps, I found that drinking lots of water, taking a lick of salt and walking, as well as I can, all help to relieve the cramp and stretch it out. As my own leg cramps always seem to have been the result of dehydration, I make sure that I increase my water intake and have enough salt in my diet.
Certainly if they occur when one is working out, one should make sure that one warms up the muscles and stretches before getting straight into the exercise routine.
Massage and baths with essential oil synergies is really helpful. Consider essential oils with analgesic and antispasmodic properties like clary sage, chamomile, cypress, lavender and mandarin. Remember that essential oils do not dissolve in water so add an equal number of drops of emulsifier, or if you don’t have an emulsifier add an equal number of drops of liquid soap to disperse the essential oil droplets through the water.
As always remember to keep in mind any possible contra-indications for the person using the blend.