If you frequent painful muscle spasms in the foot or legs, you are not alone. These often short lived but sometimes debilitating leg occurrences are brought on by overused or injured muscles, dehydration, having low levels of minerals such as potassium or calcium, or pregnancy. They can sneak up on you in the middle of the night or occur during a workout (especially if you are challenging your body to do new movements or heavier weights). Upper leg spasms are more common with running or jumping activities. Spasm in the neck (cervical spine) can be a sign of stress. Let’s take a look at additional causes of these painful spasms and ways to prevent them!
Leg cramps are especially popular and common for pregnant mamas, and may start during the second trimester and get progressively worse as the belly gets bigger. While these cramps can occur during the day, you’ll probably notice them most at night, when they can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep. Possible causes for Charley horses in pregnant moms (though it is different for each individual) may be pointing to the added pregnancy weight, compression of the blood vessels in the legs, and possibly diet, and an excess of phosphorus and a shortage of calcium or magnesium.
For EVERYONE (not only pregnant mamas), here are ways to avoid leg cramps and foot spasms:
- Drink lots of high quality water with trace minerals!
- Avoid standing or sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time.
- Stretch calf muscles regularly during the day and several times before you go to bed. Downward facing dog (popular yoga pose) is very beneficial.
- Rotate ankles and wiggle toes when sitting, eating meals, or watching TV.
- Take walks every day, unless healthcare professional (midwife or doctor) advises not to exercise. This will help increase circulation in the body and legs.
- Stay active. Regular physical activity and body movement (especially walking outdoors or on the beach) might help prevent leg cramps during pregnancy.
- Engage in workouts and physical activity that match your ability. Don’t take on too much too fast. Listen to your body and take rest periods when necessary.
- Avoid getting too tired. Lie down on the left side to improve circulation to and from legs.
- Stay hydrated during the day by drinking water regularly. This goes to before, during and after physical activity and workouts.
- Try warm baths or hot compresses on the legs before bed to relax muscles.
Supplements, Foods & Essential Oils
- Take a magnesium supplement or consider eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as:
Dark leafy greens, wild fish (mackerel), whole grains (brown rice), beans & lentils, dried fruits (figs), nuts and seeds (squash and pumpkin seeds), plain non-fat yogurt, avocados, bananas, and 70% cocoa dark chocolate.
- Use Essential Oils: Basil, Cilantro, Cypress, Deep Blue (doTerra blend), Lemongrass, Marjoram, and Wintergreen.
- By rubbing these essential oils (especially Deep Blue blend) regularly on legs and muscles, and taking a Basil, Cilantro and Lemongrass internally with veggie capsule), and water (before and after working out or physical activity, a few times a week), leg cramp occurrences have been shown to greatly diminish. Make sure you are engaging this routine regularly with the recommended vitamins and minerals listed in this post as well to maximize effectiveness.
- Take a soak in a warm bath with Geranium, Lavender and Cypress Essential Oils
- Get Plenty of Calcium. Eat plenty of calcium rich foods like low fat milk and cheese, or dairy substitute (hemp, flax, coconut or almond milk), broccoli and other dark leafy greens to insure you get enough calcium in your diet. Eating calcium rich foods provides a natural remedy for leg pain and cramps for most people and also for expecting mamas during pregnancy.
- Vitamin B (your healthy meats, fish, eggs, beans, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds and bananas)
- Eat and drink potassium-rich foods and replenishing your electrolytes is a good way to prevent an imbalance. (sweet potatoes, beet greens, coconut water, bananas, tomatoes, assorted beans, yogurt, clams, prunes, carrots, molasses, unprocessed non-GMO soybeans, fish (halibut, tuna), and organic orange juice).
- Try this electrolyte elixir for a delicious and natural way to replenish your body’s calcium, sodium and potassium:Ingredients
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
- Immediately stretch your calf muscles: Straighten your leg, heel first, and gently flex your toes back toward your shins. It might hurt at first, but it will ease the spasm and the pain will gradually go away.
- Try standing on a cold surface, which can sometimes stop a spasm.
- Do calf stretches before bed to prevent the cramps from occurring. You can stand facing the wall as shown in the picture. Remember the Downward Facing Dog! But make sure not to point your toes while stretching. Breathe into it!
- Daily foot exercises. Bend and stretch each foot vigorously up and down 30 times. Then rotate each foot eight times one way and eight times the other way .
- Use a foam roller on the legs or stand (assisted) on a tennis ball and roll it on the ball, middle and heel of the foot).
Sources: MedLinePlus.com., Dr.Oz.com, healthaliciousness.com, onemedical.com, mynaturalfamily.com, thepregnancycentre.com.au, displayfakefoods.com