Muscle pain, muscle spasm and muscle cramps are very prevalent these days despite lots of hands on treatments, over the counter medications and self help techniques. These techniques work, but unless you change the habits that create the pains on a day to day basis, they will return to haunt you!
Your habits, whether known or unknown, when combined day after day can cause chronic muscle spasm, pain and inflammation and so it is vital to address them to stop the cycle and reduce the frequency duration and severity.
Here are some essential things that Dr Mark Wiley suggests you do to help prevent pain and inflammation:
1. Stay hydrated with plenty of water
Our body is 70% water and without it life would not exist. Most people are chronically dehydrated and although they drink fluids throughout the day they remain dehydrated. This is because the fluids they drink are diuretics, substances that cause the body to excrete water such as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and alcoholic beverages particularly beer! When you have too many of these drinks, the body expels them quickly via urine and sweat, but it needs to retain enough pure fluids to maintain proper organ function to remove the toxins from the blood and to keep the skin moist. When water is low, the toxins are not as easily processed or removed from the body and so begin recycling in the blood. This causes pain, spasms and inflammation in the muscles.
It is important to drink 8-10 glasses of good water a day to bring you back to healthy levels and then check the colour of your urine. If it is quite clear then your water levels are good. So start counting your glasses of water, or fill a glass litre bottle of water and drink it throughout the day.
2. Maintain your Magnesium levels
Magnesium is one of the essential minerals in the body and if it becomes low can cause muscle spasms, cramps, twitching and pain. You need 300-400mg of magnesium a day to help maintain proper function of the body because it not only helps your muscles but also maintains the proper function of all your organ systems.
Supplementing with Magnesium is a good idea but you can also eat foods high in the mineral such as green leafy vegetables, bran and whole grains, soya beans and pumpkin.
Now it may be that you are supplementing or eating lots of those foods and still your levels are low. This could be caused by the fact that you are not absorbing well from your gut, maybe due to irritable bowel or other gastrointestinal problem, or you may have diabetes, kidney disease or pancreatitis which will lower your magnesium levels.
3. Maintain your Potassium levels
Potassium is another essential mineral for body function. When the magnesium is low in the body it can negatively impact potassium levels. If potassium levels drop below a certain level you become weak, feel fatigued and your muscles go into cramp and twitch. This is because potassium is needed for nerve signals, muscle contractions and fluid balance.
Potassium is found in apricots, bananas, raisins, figs, wheat bran and wheat germ, seeds, beans and vegetables. Most common cereals are fortified with potassium.
4. Exercise and stretch every day
Exercise is something you can do every day to help prevent pain and inflammation and also become healthier. When you are in pain it may be the last thing you feel like doing, but the reason it helps is it increases blood flow to the painful area. Even simple walking will help reduce your levels of muscle imbalances. Some simple stretching or yoga will help align the spine, keep the muscles supple and keep the blood flowing. When the blood is flowing well a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients move in the body. Think of spasms as a stagnation of blood trapped in the tissue, causing pain.
5. Reduce your stress levels
Stress is a necessary part of life and our survival, but unhealthy stress can lead to excessive worry, anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms and pain, especially in your neck and back. However there are a few simple mind-body techniques that can help to reduce the effects and severity of stress. These include meditation, visualisation, hypnotherapy, yoga and gigong. Putting one of these into your daily routine will go a long way to reducing the negative effects of stress on the body
6. A good nights sleep
Sleep is the time when your body repairs and rebuilds itself as long as you are asleep before midnight because that is when the hormone melatonin is produced and it helps the sleep/wake cycle.
Sleeping on your back or your side with a pillow between the knees will keep the spine in a supported position to decrease the chances of pinched nerves or muscle spasms from poor sleep posture. A good supporting neck pillow is also helpful. It is a good idea to get into a good habit of regular sleep that allows you to wake feeling refreshed and ready for the day – not stiff, tired and anxious.
Whilst there are times when the pain and spasm we are experiencing is beyond our control, very often much of it is completely within our power to change. If you are experiencing daily pain, start looking after yourself, don’t do the things that make the pain worse and try incorporating into your life some of the things above as they will undoubtedly make a difference.