When a muscle contracts on its own, a cramp occurs. It happens suddenly with no warning signs. Obviously, no one wants to experience muscle cramps due to how painful they can be.
They often occur in the back, lower leg, the back of your thigh, and even the front of your thigh. There are many ways you can treat muscle cramps and the most famous method is by using ice.
One of the remedies people wonder if it’s effective is the use of mustard. Can mustard really help with muscle cramps? Well, in this article, we will discuss if mustard has any healing properties when it comes to muscle cramps.
What are muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps are said to occur when a muscle contracts suddenly and involuntarily with no warning signs whatsoever. These contractions are usually painful and can affect different muscle groups.
The back of your lower leg, the front of your thigh, and even the back of your thighs are all muscles that are commonly affected.
You might also experience cramps in other places such as your feet, hands, arms, and abdomen. Intense muscle pains can even make it difficult for you to walk and even sleep at night.
What are the causes of muscle cramps?
There are many causes of muscle cramps. Sometimes, muscle cramps are caused by overexercising, that is, overusing your muscles, dehydration, and even low levels of nutrients such as minerals in your body.
The lack of or absence of minerals such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium can result in cramps.
Another cause of cramps is the low supply of blood to your legs and feet. This can result in you experiencing cramps in your legs or feet.
Also, certain health conditions have been known to cause cramps; some of which include, pregnancy, kidney failure, hypothyroidism, etc.
How can muscle cramps be diagnosed?
Muscle cramps can be diagnosed via a physical exam performed by your doctor. Blood tests can also be performed to check the levels of potassium and calcium in your blood as well as your kidney and thyroid function.
Muscle cramps or cramps, in general, are usually harmless and do not require any medical attention.
However, if the cramps are severe and they do not improve after doing some physical activities such as stretching, then make sure to consult a doctor or qualified health personnel. This could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Another test that can be taken to diagnose cramps is electromyography (EMG). This is a test that measures muscle activity and checks for muscle abnormalities.
An MRI can also be used to diagnose muscle cramps. An MRI is an imaging tool that can create a picture of your spinal cord.
Does mustard help with cramps?
There is no evidence that supports the ability of mustard to treat cramps or even reduce cramps. But there are many theories as to why some people report experiencing cramp relief after consuming mustard.
Some have theorized that the minerals in mustard, specifically sodium and potassium, can prevent leg cramps after exercise.
However, there was a study conducted with nine healthy adults. In the study, the nine healthy adults who consumed mustard after a 2-hour bout of exercise did not fully replenish electrolyte losses due to sweating and dehydration [source].
There is also another theory involving turmeric. With this theory, the turmeric in mustard may help relax muscles and relieve leg cramps due to the spice’s anti-inflammatory properties.
However, no research currently exists to support this theory. Recently, researchers have suggested that mustard may help with leg cramps by activating sensors in the back of your throat. Specifically, molecules called isothiocyanates in mustard are thought to cause this activation.
Hence, a signal is transferred in your body that prevents the nerves in your muscles from becoming overly excited and causing muscles to cramp. However, more research is needed to prove that mustard is effective for treating cramps [source].
Are there other treatments for cramps?
There are many treatments and home remedies that you can use to treat cramps. Here are a few.
Applying a hot or cold compress to the affected area of muscles at the first sign of a spasm can help ease the pain of muscle cramps. You can use a hot cloth, a cold cloth, ice, and a heating pad for this method.
Another treatment for cramps is by stretching the affected muscle. This helps to reduce the pain of muscle cramps.
Here is an example, if your calf is cramping, you could pull your foot upward with your hand to stretch the calf muscle.
In case of severe cramps in your calf, you could pull your foot upward with your hand to stretch the calf muscle.
Can muscle cramps be prevented?
Yes, muscle cramps can be prevented. One simple way to avoid muscle cramps is to limit the exercises that put a strain on your muscles.
You can also try the following to help prevent cramps
- Stretch or warm-up before participating in sports and exercising. Failure to warm-up can result in muscle strain and injury.
- Don’t exercise right after eating.
- Lower your intake of food and drink that contains caffeine, such as coffee and chocolate.
- Make sure that you drink enough liquid to avoid dehydration. Your body loses more water when physically active, so increase your liquid intake when you exercise.
- Increase your calcium and potassium intake naturally by drinking milk and orange juice and eating bananas.
- Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin supplement to ensure that your body receives the necessary supply of nutrients and minerals.
The takeaway from this article
Though there are many claims that mustard can help with cramps, there is no evidence to support this claim.
There are however other things you can try to ease your cramps such as stretching before participating in any physical activities such as sports, avoiding exercising right after eating, and also using a hot or cold compress.