How Stretching Can Help Your Muscle Cramps
By High Desert Family Medicine
October 15, 2021
Category: Osteopathic Care
Tags: Muscle Cramps   Stretching  
Muscle CrampsThere are a variety of reasons why people can get muscle cramps. From dehydration to lack of vitamins and minerals, muscle cramps can be painful and even scary. Luckily, most muscle cramps are thought to be due to the overuse of muscles, muscle strains, or holding a position for too long.

Stretching can help tackle these common causes of muscle cramps and help people find relief from cramps. In addition, stretching can help prevent future muscle cramps from forming and strengthen your body overall.

How Can Stretching Help my Muscle Cramps?

Stretching your muscles helps cramps by massaging out the affected muscle and allowing it to relax again. Cramps are caused by muscles not being able to relax, causing a contraction that is uncontrollable. Stretching, using a warm compress, and making sure to stay hydrated can all help alleviate even the most painful muscle cramps.

Proper Stretching Techniques

No matter the muscle you stretch, it's important to never over-extend muscles through stretching. This can cause increased injury and can even lead to muscle sprains and strains. Instead, when stretching your muscles, start off slow and warm up your muscles by walking or doing gentle movements. For the arms, arm circles are a good start. For the legs, doing gentle running in place or walking can help.
Every muscle can benefit from different stretches. For instance, intense back cramps can benefit from the child's pose in yoga, which involves kneeling on the ground and placing your front torso forward with outstretched arms. Alternatively, you can try knees to chest stretch, or a lumbar rotation stretch.
More common muscle cramps that involve the calf can be treated with gentle stretching by pulling the toes toward the body while keeping the knees as straight as possible. 

How Long Do I Stretch For?

Whatever stretch you choose to do, it's important to remember to hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds. It takes time for the muscle to fully benefit from the stretch. However, if you find yourself in extreme pain, do not continue with the stretch. Instead, go back to the least painful position and hold the stretch from there.

Other Benefits of Stretching

Besides being good for muscle cramps, stretching can also help people with:
  • Stress relief
  • Improve their posture
  • Improve blood flow to the muscles
  • Improve flexibility
  • Help range of motion
Stretching can help you feel immediate relief from cramps and are a great alternative to muscle relaxers and other pain medication. However, if you feel stretching doesn't help your cramps, or your cramps continue, speak to your osteopath today.

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