Muscle cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions or spasms that appear when neurons (built of fibers that transcends electric impulses through various parts of human body) send uncontrolled impulses to muscle cells causing inability of muscle relaxing.
Cramps or any sort of muscle overloading may cause cell damage and usually cause pain. Muscle spasms usually occur in calf muscle, hamstring leg, back, neck and quadriceps. Pain caused by muscle cramps is abrupt and intense, lasts usually for a couple of seconds.
The demography mostly affected by this are older people, pregnant women and sportsmen, often while asleep, during the night or in the course of the day throughout physical activity, such as jogging while leg cramps at night are the most common form of the muscle cramps.
Most of the ideas related to cause of muscle spasms/cramps deals with one electrolyte, potassium levels. Hence the expression that one banana can beat muscle spasms, because a banana is an excellent source of potassium. But in fact the spasms are much more complex phenomenon and may be associated with any electrolyte. In order to reach the solution it is necessary to experiment to be able to determine the particular issue in question with a particular person.
What Causes Muscle Spasms
The occurrence and causes of muscle cramps or spasms is a complex matter and although we hear very simple ideas as a solution, they often do not work and serious analyses muscle spasms causes are required. The most common problem is the hydration (fluid supply), i.e., the level of electrolyte. Electrolytes are molecules that transmit electrical signals in nerves, such as potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium etc. and it is the disturbances in the composition of electrolytes in intercellar space which bring up to overload activity of neurons .
Electrolytes and hydration levels are linked: the amount of fluid affects the relative concentration of electrolytes. If more water is present, then there is a decrease of relative concentration of electrolytes. In the case of dehydration, of course, is exactly the opposite.
Muscle cramps are a common occurrence in people who suddenly begin intensive training. Many sportsmen have cramps when sweating and not adding enough liquid/water and minerals that they lose through sweating.
A useful tip is to measure the weight before and after training and replenish every “loss” of mass with the liquids at a ratio of 1.5 liters of fluid for 1 kg of “lost” weight. This fluid should be taken on the same day to compensate for the loss. This is especially true for athletes who train in the heat.
Hormone caused changes with women can produce instability of electrolytes so pregnant women could suffer from leg cramps. In some cases damaged nervous system can also be a reason for muscle cramps, as well as inflammations or diseases of veins.
Statins, anticonvulsants, antihistamines, estrogens, and medications for osteoporosis can cause muscle cramps as a side effect. Blocked or narrowed arteries may also reduce blood flow to the legs, causing leg cramps.
Diet affects Muscle Cramps
With diets with a very low carbohydrate intake (less than 100 g CH per day) a discharge of glycogen occurs particularly due to the low carbohydrate intake. The loss of fluids individually can vary widely, from 0.5-1 to 5-7 kilograms in larger individuals. A child with a low intake of carbohydrates in addition results in the loss of electrolytes, which leads to muscle spasms and the feelings of fatigue.
With those people a diet should be supplemented with nutrition:
- 3-5 grams of sodium chloride
- 1 gram of potassium
- 300 mg magnesium
It does not only help in terms of cramps, but it has been proven that it can counteract to specific symptoms of fatigue, which often occur in ketogenic diets. Of course, the optimal calcium intake with each diet is important for healthy bones. How much you need depends on how much dairy products you consume. Magnesium usually has a special treatment, but sodium and potassium can also be taken, if it is kind of salt that is not only sodium chloride, but contains potassium chloride, and possibly other electrolytes.
Etedrin type stimulants / caffeine combination, or clenbuterol (spiropent) cause cramps. It is more likely during diets with low amount of carbohydrates. The reason for that is that they stimulate the uptake of calcium into the muscle, causing contraction of muscles at a very low level.
Muscle Cramps Prevention
When it comes to cramps prevention, proper supplementation of Ca, Mg, E-vit can do the job if the cause is proven to be mineral insufficiency (even though magnesium shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities – it can cause diarrhea which means further loss of minerals).
If the muscle cramps persist and become more frequent it is necessary to consult medical doctor. Sometimes the cause of those frequent muscle cramps could be undiagnosed diabetes mellitus (carbohydrates metabolism disorder caused by insufficiency of insulin); increased level of sugar in blood is the principal symptom and the common implication is weakness, frequent urinating and increased hunger and thirst. These neuropathies cause muscle cramps even in the early stage of disease.
With the acute muscle cramps stretching of muscles is helpful – it stops constant neuro impulses causing pain to disappear and thus weakens the muscle cramps. Also, the full body pressure on legs bending in knees can be helpful. Regular gymnastics with muscle stretching effectively decreases the frequency of possible cramps.
The most important fact in prevention of muscle cramps is that consuming enough water is of great importance as well as taking enough minerals through healthy food, especially vegetables and corn.