Monday, May 16, 2011

Leg and foot muscle cramps and spasms

Cramps and spasms can develop in any muscle in the body but are most commonly felt in the calves, feet or toes. They usually occur in muscles that have been overused, as can be seen in runners or joggers, or because of a lack of good muscle tone after previous years of repetitive use. Diet can also be a cause of muscle spasms. Eating too much salt or meat may cause the muscles to tighten and stiffen. A calcium deficiency may lead to cramping problems.

In TCM and the Five Element Theory the liver is in charge of the muscles and therefore any spasms are seen as coming from an imbalance in liver qi, especially if there is an increase of them in springtime. Sour is the taste associated with the liver so eating a moderate amount of sour foods at this time of the year can help improve muscle tone and prevent cramping. 

Acupressure massage is an excellent way to keep muscles flexible. If you have a problem with calf muscles cramping, massage and knead the whole length of the muscle, focusing on point Bladder 57 as described below. Stimulating Liver 3 will also help relieve pain and prevent muscle spasms in the feet.

  • B 57 location:  in the center of the base of the calf muscle, halfway between the crease behind the knee and the heel of the foot.  This point is typically very sensitive, so carefully apply pressure gradually with your thumbs and hold for a minute. 
  • Lv 3 location:  on the top of the foot in the valley between the big toe and the second toe.  Press this point with the middle and index finger and massage firmly for a minute.
Yoga stretching and acupressure can be combined to relieve tension and tightness in muscles.  Try the following exercise for tense muscles and also for stomach and menstrual cramps.

Baby Pose with a difference
Babies will often relax in this position:  Sit on the floor on your heels with your knees apart and feet about two feet apart behind you.  Exhale and slowly relax forward till your forehead rests on the floor.  Use a cushion under your head and/or between the backs of the legs and the calves if this makes the pose more comfortable.  Your arms are relaxed by your sides.  Now put your hands under your feet so that your index fingers are pressing on the Liver 3 points.*  Relax, breathing slowly for one to two minutes. Then lie on your back for a few minutes to relax all muscles of the body completely.

* see video