A cramp is a painful spasm of muscle and when it occurs internally, such as in the intestine, ureter or bile duct, it is called colic, which is very common among babies. Cramps are also associated with the menstrual cycle and are very common in women who have not had children.
Cramps happen to almost everybody without any underlying cause and in most cases, there is no reason for concern. The most common sort of cramp in the leg, which usually occurs at night is often associated with old age, varicose veins, arthritis or pregnancy. It may also be a symptom of poor circulation, lack of salt or may be due to dietary vitamin and mineral deficiencies, particularly calcium, potassium and magnesium. Constant stress, which causes chronically tense muscles, can also be a factor.
Intestinal colic may occur in response to irritation from certain food or chemicals such as purgatives, bacterial toxins as in gastroenteritis or constipation. Colic in babies is sometimes due to rapid feeding or overfeeding, and swallowing too much air during feeding.
Painful menstrual cramps can be due to sex hormone influence and to endocrine insufficiency. Biliary and renal colic usually occur in an attempt to expel stones.
Recurrent night-cramps in the legs, caused by poor circulation, can often be relieved by taking a warm foot bath before retiring and raising the foot of the bed by about 10cm. Herbs such as hawthorn, ginkgo biloba, mistletoe, ginseng and garlic are all beneficial for circulation.
When a cramp is experienced the affected muscle should be stretched, e.g. cramping of the calf muscles can be alleviated by flexing the foot upwards. Gently massage the painful area and apply a Swedish Bitters compress or a common club moss pillow.
If cramps persist they should be treated to prevent stressful symptoms, using any or all of the following:
CAMOMILE has healing properties which are beneficial for painful cramps, especially in babies and small children.
BALM MINT is an excellent carminative herb that relieves spasms in the digestive tract.
MISTLETOE is a good remedy for chronic cramps.
THYME helps relieve abdominal pain, as well as stomach and menstrual pain.
FENNEL is an excellent remedy which relieves colic while also stimulating digestion and appetite, and is most suitable for babies.
VALERIAN is one of the most useful relaxing nervines. As an anti-spasmodic it will aid in the relief of cramp and intestinal colic.
MAGNESIUM has a muscle relaxing effect in cases of magnesium deficiency.