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Muscle Cramps

If you have ever been awakened in the night or stopped in your tracks by a sudden muscle cramp, you know that they can cause severe pain.

What are muscle cramps?

There is often confusion about muscle spasm and muscle cramp, but essentially they are both a sudden involuntary muscle contraction, but a muscle cramp lasts longer and is usually of greater intensity.

They often occur in the muscles of the calf or foot but can also affect the front and back of the thigh, hands, arms, abdomen and muscles along the ribcage.

Want to learn more about Muscle Cramp?
We look in more details below at the symptomscauses and how osteopathy can help.


Muscle cramps can range from being a mild nuisance to incapacitating and extremely painful. The cramped muscle may be visibly distorted or look knotted. Twitching may be evident. The area of a muscle cramp may be firm to the touch. Some muscle cramps last just a few seconds, while others can last 15 minutes or more.

Muscle cramps at night, especially in the calves, are very common and affect up to 60% of adults. Women are more likely to suffer from nocturnal leg cramps than men. They are also more common with age and contribute to insomnia. Muscle fatigue and nerve dysfunction are believed to be contribute to nocturnal leg cramps. Management of nocturnal leg cramps may include stretching, massage, and treatment of any underlying disorders that contribute to the condition.

Many pregnant women experience muscle cramps, especially in the legs and at night, during pregnancy. The levels of fluids and electrolytes in the body fluctuate during pregnancy, which may contribute to leg cramps. Increased pressure on pelvic nerves may also play a role.


Most of the time the exact cause is not known, but have been attributed to:

  • Exercise, injuries, or overuse of muscles.
  • Mineral deficiencies – particularly – calcium, potassium and magnesium. This is especially common in later months of pregnancy.
  • Cold temperatures, especially cold water.
  • Medical conditions, including peripheral arterial disease, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease or any circulation issues.
  • Sleeping in an awkward position, standing on a hard surface for an extended time or sitting for too long.
  • Dehydration – where your body has lost too much fluid.
  • Medications like antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids.
  • Nerve compression – such as lumbar stenosis, whereto may notice cramps in your legs which is aggravated the longer you walk or stand on your feet.

Most recently science has offered some new prospects on what can trigger muscle cramps and how to treat muscle cramps.

Dr. Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist, has uncovered that muscle cramps are caused by the nerve, not the muscle. Your muscles cramp up when motor neurons in your spinal cord start firing off spontaneously and repetitively. His research also revealed that stimulating the sensory nerves in the mouth, esophagus and stomach triggers a response from the nervous system and calms down the motor neurons in the spinal cord. This led to the development of HOT SHOT, a product which is taken before and after exercising in order to prevent and treat cramping. Its unique formula stimulates sensory neurons in the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Neurons are now stimulated and send impulses to the spinal cord, the impulses override and stop repetitive signals coming to and from the site of the cramp. The repetitive signals are stopped preventing or treating cramps. (This seems like an advert for the product – are we endorsing it?)

How we can help

Firstly you are going to want to know how to release it yourself and then make an appointment to see one our practitioners who will check to see what has happened, treat any residual muscle tightness, make sure your body is working correctly and give advice as needed regarding nutrition, exercise, stretches and posture.

If you do get a cramp try these tips to alleviate the pain:

  • Hot showers can help immensely with cramping. Get the water get as hot as possible and allow it to run down your legs. This will help relax your muscles or have a hot bath.
  •  If you wake up with a leg cramp stretch your leg straight out and bend the toes back toward your head. Hold for 30 seconds, relax, and repeat until the cramp is gone. This stretches out your calf muscle. Alternately, do this standing up – push your heel onto the floor and bend your toes upward. This forces the calf muscle to lengthen.
  • For a cramp in the front of your thigh hold on to a chair and pull your foot back towards your bottom.
  • A stretching regime before bed can also help with leg cramping at night. Press your toes against a wall to stretch out the calf muscles; hold for 30 seconds, relax, repeat several times.
  • Stay well hydrated, stretch, eat more food high in vitamins and minerals.
  • Get a massage from a trained professional. A massage from a well-meaning family member may do more harm than good in this situation!

Start to live your life again …

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What to do now ……

If you’ve come to this website looking for help, then don’t in silence suffer any longer.

Contact us immediately on 01462 811006 for a consultation and let’s assess your condition.

At the assessment, we’ll take some details from you and build your case history. We’ll discuss why you’ve come to see us and where you have any aches and pains. Then we’ll examine you with the aim of giving you the appropriate treatment.

This will take a little while to complete, but it’s a necessary part of the ethical guidelines we work to. The guidelines are there to make sure everything is done professionally and to a high standard of patient care. I’m sure you agree that’s a good thing!

If you have any questions about what we do and how we do it, call us on 01462 811006 or use the contact form below – and we’ll be happy to help.