I was going to tell you about the experiences of someone who complained bitterly about a recent bout of leg cramps, which came on abruptly after some unusually intense exercise however, this would be pure fabrication as it was me who succumbed and, it got me thinking about the reasons for and how to prevent it before the devil child hits.

The NHS and other websites state the following:

Cramps can sometimes be caused by:

  • ageing
  • exercise – putting too much strain on muscles
  • pregnancy – usually in the later stage
  • medicine for lowering cholesterol (statins) or high blood pressure (diuretics)
  • not drinking enough fluid (dehydration)
  • liver disease – because of too much alcohol
  • Diabetes or Thyroid problems and, pregnancy
  • Nerve compression – including that created from back problems

In addition, tight muscles and reduced blood supply (something that happens with exercise) will also create an environment primed for cramps.

The reason for some cramps is unknown

Certainly, I could be accused of being older, exercising too much and even not drinking enough, although I did have a couple of pints of nutrient filled Guinness much later in the evening before the cramp hit, after all it is good for you . I suggest it was too little too late and that the time for fluid intake was probably during the activity not after.

The website WebMD, suggests that stretching regularly and, in particular, before and after exercise will help reduce these nasty muscle spasms. Hamstrings, calf muscles, quads and the muscles under one’s foot tend to fall victim to cramp.

Indeed, on the odd occasion where I have felt cramp beginning to rear its ugly head stretching has kept it at bay, as has rubbing it furiously, something which, those of you who know me, know I do a lot of. Another observation in this category is that tendons shorten as we age, thus increasing the strain on the muscle body. By keeping the muscle on stretch the blood supply is reduced, the knock-on effect can be reduction of nutrient flow and metabolic waste clearance

There is also a suggestion that vitamin and mineral deficiency (particularly potassium, calcium and magnesium) are contributors in this exciting manifestation of human suffering.

As we get older, we lose muscle mass, possibly up to 3% per year after the age of thirty-five and thus the muscles that we still have are strained beyond their ability to cope. If you have been reading some of my earlier missives you will be aware that my over-riding observation is; get to the gym and get stronger, by building up power through a progressive weights programme.

It seems to me, having read some of the research, there are a few observations to be made; mostly, cramp although spectacular in its appearance, is innocuous unless it keeps returning regularly. If this is the case, there is a possibility you are pregnant, have a thyroid or liver problem, or diabetes. In these cases, you need to talk to your GP.

For all other cause’s osteopathy may be able to help. Where appropriate, we can advise, treat and provide you with rehab suggestions.

Ready when you are!

Kendall Chew B.Sc. (Ost) Hons.

Associate Osteopath
General Osteopathic Council Number 2288