Why do you people get leg cramps?

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Do you experience leg cramps?   Some people get them while laying in bed, while others may get them walking, stretching, or even sitting the wrong way. Often people who get leg cramps have knee problems and/or back problems as well.   Is there a connection?

What causes the leg cramp?

It used to be thought that leg cramps were caused by the muscles.  Muscles are surrounded by fascia and when fascia is tight, the muscles will often cramp either in bed or maybe when maintaining a sustained posture. A muscle cramp is a sustained contraction of a muscle that can be either muscular only in nature or may have a neurological basis.   The muscle will contract inward and the fibers within it will contract hard and uncontrollably.  This is a true muscle cramp. These types of muscle cramps will relieve or reduce using massage or by ingesting quinine which is thought to reduce the frequency or intensity of these types of cramps. Sometimes an extreme activity can cause dehydration which is also known to cause these cramps. Unlike the photo from this site, you may have a sustained contraction in the foot or toes as well as they contract painfully. Other types of cramps sensations may actually be due to a lack of flexibility in the legs.   Tight legs may be developmental or may be due to body asymmetries that result in hip pain, leg cramps, and other painful symptoms. As explained in the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, poor adaptive patterns, and tight fascia can mimic leg cramps but these types of sensations are the body reacting to protect a joint from damage due to overstretching. Ofter these types of cramps are caused by moving or stretching a tight feeling leg a certain way which causes a cramp-like feeling that forces you to immediately move the leg out of that position.  Moving the leg out of that position usually resolves it and there is no muscle contraction or puckering.  This cramp-like feeling is actually a protective mechanism.   Often, what feels tight is actually strain which may affect a joint or series of joints.   The cramp is actually your body's mechanical sensors that protect joints from damage being activated.   While it may seem logical to stretch what feels tight, Most people will try to stretch what feels tight but are in fact straining the area causing the cramp.   While it may seem illogical, stretching the opposite side will often relieve the cramp because it will reduce strain.   This works because whenever something is tight, the body will compensate.   Foam rolling actually works best to loosen the tight fascia, which is the connective tissue that controls motion in muscle groups.   Certain types of tissues such as the hip and shoulder joint capsules respond to stretching while fascia does not.

Who should you see if you get frequent cramps or muscle pulls.

Chiropractic Sports Physicians are your first choice for problems that involve movement.  This includes cramps or muscle pulls. To fully understand these mechanisms, a holistic approach to how we move and function is required.   The chiropractic approach to care will reduce cramps by loosening tight fascia, recommending appropriate corrective exercises, and understanding how you move.

What should you expect on your first chiropractic visit?

  1. Initial visits include a holistic history of not only the cramps but other current and past problems you may have experienced.
  2. A holistic evaluation of how you function, how your neurologic system functions and to develop an understanding of why you experience cramps.
  3. Treatment usually commences during the initial visit which can include manipulation of the joints of the spine and extremities, soft tissue techniques such as myofascial release, and exercises if appropriate.
  4. Many patients benefit from foot orthotics if they have a mechanical imbalance in their legs affecting their pelvic and core muscles.
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