You could be out for a run or drifting off to sleep when it happens: the muscles of your calf or foot suddenly become hard, tight and extremely painful. You are having a muscle cramp. Cramp is a common problem for athletes at all levels and affects hard working muscles such as the calves in runners and the arm in tennis players. It is due to a muscle spasm, which is when a muscle contracts too powerfully.
A cramp pain typically lasts a few minutes. In some cases it lasts just seconds, but in some cases it lasts up to 10 minutes. The severity of the pain varies. The muscle may remain tender for up to 24 hours after a cramp.
It is commonly thought that cramp can be caused by:
Fatigue: Cramp sets in when our muscles are tired
Hydration: We get cramp when we have not drunk enough water or salts
Conditioning: The less fit we are, the more likely we are to suffer from cramp
In some cases, the cramps may be a symptom of another problem. For example: an untreated underactive thyroid gland, peripheral arterial disease (narrowing of the leg arteries which causes poor circulation), excess alcohol or some uncommon disorders of nerves.
Rare causes include: cirrhosis of the liver; lead poisoning or sarcoidosis.
More recent developments indicate that the cause of cramps most likely involves hyperactivity of the nerve-muscle reflex arc. In this scheme, some of the normal inhibitory activity of the central nervous system (CNS) reflexes is lost as a result of CNS fatigue or overuse of feedback communication with muscles.
Since magnesium plays a role in neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction, it has been thought that magnesium deficiency may predispose to muscle cramps. Canadian doctors have found that magnesium supplements can alleviate muscle cramps. In severe cases, magnesium has been provided intravenously and this has led to relief of symptoms.
Stretching and massaging
Stretching and massaging the affected muscle can usually relieve an attack of cramp. Most cramps soon ease off. Painkillers are not usually helpful as they do not act quickly enough. However, a painkiller such as paracetamol may help to ease muscle discomfort and tenderness that sometimes persists for up to 24 hours after a cramp has gone.
What to do?
In evidence, it is well recognized that, once induced, stretching the affected muscle can ameliorate cramping. Stretches should be held for 15 to 30 seconds or until the muscle relaxes and the cramp does not recur when the muscle is returned to its normal relaxed position. In addition, once cramping starts, exercise should be curtailed for at least an hour, which allows the muscles and the central nervous system to recover. It is never a good idea to “run through” these cramps.
Leg cramps are different to a condition called restless legs syndrome. In this condition the legs can be uncomfortable, you feel creeping sensations in the legs, and it is relieved by walking about.
Sources: www.mg12.info; www.nps.org.au; www.nhs.uk; www.patient.co.uk; www.bbc.co.uk; www.medicinenet.com; www.webmd.boots.com; www.scientificamerican.com
Firstly, let us begin by understanding exactly what a “Detox” means. According to the Oxford dictionary Detox is defined as – A process or period of time in which one abstains from, or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances;
Beginning on September 22 or 23, the autumnal equinox signals a time of change, in weather, daylight, and temperatures. Physically, we need to take special care of the two vital organs of this season, the lungs and the large intestines.
Along with the bronchial tubes, throat, sinuses, and nose, are a major detoxification pathway. They act as the go-between for the internal and outer environments, inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide through their pulmonary capillaries. Each cell performs as a mini lung by taking in oxygen from the bloodstream and eliminating carbon dioxide, which is then carried back to the lungs. That’s why it’s essential for our lungs to have good-quality air that is clean, moist, warm, and rich in oxygen.
The large intestines
Equally important to our health and detox process are our large intestines, which also need our special attention during the change of seasons. When our system becomes backed up with toxins, a mucus build-up along the lining of the intestinal wall occurs. The wastes lodged in our colon ultimately affect every part of our body and results in altered bowel movements. One of the first signs of this is seen in our skin in the form of rashes, blotchy skins, acne, and eczema. When we get constipated, faecal matter can remain lodged in our system for weeks or even years; this motionless waste develops a hard, stubborn plaque along the walls of our bowels and creates a dangerous playground for unwanted bacteria.
Autumn detox plan
This is harvest season, the time to begin to decrease our intake of cooling summer foods and start to increase more cooked and warming foods into our eating plan in preparation for winter. It’s also the season to reduce our soft summer fruit intake and start to enjoy stewed plums and baked apples, with warming spices and herbs.
Fenugreek tea may be something to try as it acts as a lubricant and has the ability to soften and dissolve mucus in the lungs and moisten the intestinal tract to prevent constipation.
Autumn spices include warming cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and anise, which are not only deliciously aromatic but help to prevent indigestion, gas, and cold hands and feet. Anise is a lung remedy as well, known to help bronchial disorders and asthma.
Autumn detox plan protocol
Oils: 1 tablespoon lignan-rich flaxseed oil and 1 tablespoon sesame oil daily
Lean protein: at least 8 ounces daily. Choose from organic grass fed beef, eggs, lamb, poultry, fish, tofu, and tempeh
Vegetables: unlimited steamed, stir fried or roasted vegetables especially root vegetables, plus 3 tablespoons sauerkraut (unpasteurised)
Fruits: 3 whole portions daily. Choose from 1 medium apple, 1 cup cranberries, 1 medium pear, 1/2 medium persimmon, 1/2 pomegranate; plus 1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Filtered water: 8 glasses a day at room temperature.
Sample autumn detox plan menu
Upon rising: two 200ml glasses of water with juice of 1 lemon
Breakfast: 1 stewed apple with cinnamon and nutmeg; Autumn Scrambler (made with 2 eggs, mushrooms, and onions with 1/2 tablespoon sesame seed oil)
Mid-morning: two 200ml glasses of water or equivalent in herbal tea
Lunch: Organic wild salmon with warm cabbage salad with grated carrots, celery, parsley, and dressing of 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon aniseeds; 3 tablespoons sauerkraut
Mid-afternoon: two 200ml glasses of water or equivalent in herbal tea
Before dinner: 1 pear, or apple
Dinner: grilled organic lamb chops with a dash of cinnamon; braised greens and sliced daikon (East Asian radish) with 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil; Autumn Leaves Veggies (with steamed wild mushrooms, radishes, and snow peas.
Mid-evening: two 200ml glasses of water or equivalent in herbal tea.
If you want more ideas and suggestions based on what you would normally eat, please contact Kim in clinic and she will be happy to go through it with you.
Passive stretches are those which use some sort of outside assistance to help you achieve a stretch. This assistance could be your body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With passive stretching, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the external force to hold you in place. You don’t usually have to work very hard to do a passive stretch, but there is always the risk that the external force will be stronger than you are flexible, which could cause injury.
Does it help performance?
Although most people are more familiar with traditional passive stretching (where you push into a deep stretch, without muscular effort), it can actually hurt your performance and can potentially cause injury. Research from the American Journal of Applied Physiology and reports by the American College of Sports Medicine show that passive stretching can decrease strength and muscular power output by up to 20%. The reason for this, it is thought, is that static passive stretching will dampen the nervous system activation of the involved muscles, essentially making them looser, weaker, and less stable for at least an hour afterwards.
Passive stretching can also tear your soft tissue, thus creating less available muscle for you to create power with. This is especially significant if you consider that many athletes are still doing passive stretching prior to training or competition.
Recent research found that static stretching makes you weaker when performed before weightlifting in both the upper and lower body, and between novice athletes and experienced lifters.
How best to passive stretch
It is important to note that passive stretching isn’t bad if done properly, but there is a time and place for it. Research shows it to limit maximum strength if performed before training, however when performed away from and after training passive stretching can help flexibility greatly.
From our perspective and for recovery from injuries it is often more important to stretch rather than exercise and always stretch after rehabilitation exercises.
www.humankinetics.com; www.topendsports.com; breakingmuscle.com; www.bodybuilding.com
Fowles, J. R., Sale, D. G., & MacDougall, J. D. (2000). Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Journal of applied physiology,89(3), 1179-1188.