Foods That May Help With Muscle Cramps

Foods That May Help With Muscle Cramps

 

Eat to Beat Them

Muscle cramps happen when your muscles tense up and you can’t relax them. While painful, usually you can treat them yourself. Exercise, dehydration, and menstruation are common causes. One way to stop cramps is to stretch or massage your muscles and to eat enough of these key nutrients: potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. They’re called electrolytes, and you can find them in the following foods.

 

Bananas: A Time-Tested Treatment

You probably know that bananas are a good source of potassium. But they’ll also give you magnesium and calcium. That’s three out of four nutrients you need to ease muscle cramps tucked under that yellow peel. No wonder bananas are a popular, quick choice for cramp relief.

 

Sweet Relief From Sweet Potatoes

Like bananas, sweet potatoes give you potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Sweet potatoes get the win because they have about six times as much calcium as bananas. And it’s not just sweet potatoes: Regular potatoes and even pumpkins are good sources of all three nutrients. Plus, potatoes and pumpkins naturally have a lot of water in them, so they can help keep you hydrated, too.

 

The Avocado: A Potassium Powerhouse

One creamy, green berry (yes, it’s really a berry!) has about 975 milligrams of potassium, twice as much as a sweet potato or banana. Potassium is important because it helps your muscles work and keeps your heart healthy. So swap out mayo on a sandwich with mashed avocado, or slice one onto your salad to help keep muscle cramps away.

 

Beans and Lentils

Legumes like beans and lentils are packed with magnesium. One cup of cooked lentils has about 71 milligrams of magnesium, and a cup of cooked black beans has almost double that with 120 milligrams. Plus, they’re high in fiber, and studies show that high-fiber foods can help ease menstrual cramps as well as help control your blood sugar and lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.

 

Melons Are the Total Package

These fruits have it all: loads of potassium, a good amount of magnesium and calcium, a little sodium, and a lot of water. Sodium and water are key because as you exercise, your body flushes sodium out with your sweat. If you lose too much water, you’ll get dehydrated, and muscle cramps may happen. Eating a cup of cubed cantaloupe after a workout can help.

 

Watermelon for Hydration

They’re about 90% water, so when you need foods that hydrate, a cup of watermelon will do it. Since it’s a melon, it’s also high in potassium, but not quite as high as others.

 

Milk

It’s a natural source of electrolytes like calcium, potassium, and sodium. It’s good for hydration. And it’s packed with protein, which helps repair muscle tissue after workouts. All of the above can help protect against muscle cramps.

 

Pickle Juice

Some athletes swear by pickle juice as a fast way to stop a muscle cramp. They believe it’s effective because of the high water and sodium content. But that might not be the case. While pickle juice may help relieve muscle cramps quickly, it isn’t because you’re dehydrated or low on sodium. It is more likely because the pickle juice sets off a reaction in your nervous system that stops the cramp, according to recent research.

 

Dark, Leafy Greens

They’re rich in calcium and magnesium. So adding kale, spinach, or broccoli to your plate may help prevent muscle cramps. Eating leafy greens also may help with menstruation cramps, as studies show eating foods high in calcium can help relieve pain from periods.

 

 

Snack Smart With Nuts and Seeds

Like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds are a great source of magnesium. Many types of nuts and seeds have calcium and magnesium as well.

 

Salmon for Circulation

Sometimes muscle cramps are the result of poor blood flow. Eating oily fish like salmon can help improve it. Plus, a portion of cooked salmon has about 326 milligrams of potassium and 52 milligrams of sodium to help with muscle cramps. Not a salmon fan? You also could try trout or sardines.

 

Tap Into Tomatoes, Juice and All

Tomatoes are high in potassium and water content. So if you gulp down 1 cup of tomato juice, you’ll get about 15% of your daily value of potassium. You’ll also give your body hydration to prevent muscle cramps from starting.

 

Drink Water for Max Hydration

The water you get from other beverages, plus fruits and vegetables, counts, too. Before you reach for a sports drink, know this: You only need these sugary electrolyte beverages if you’re doing high-intensity exercise for an hour or more. For electrolytes without the sugar, drink coconut water instead.

 

 

Guide to Understanding Osteoarthritis

Guide to Understanding Osteoarthritis

 

Osteoarthritis: What Is It?

Also called “wear and tear” arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis (OA) is the progressive breakdown of the joints’ natural shock absorbers. This can cause discomfort when you use the affected joints — perhaps an ache when you bend at the hips or knees, or sore fingers when you type. Most people over 60 have some degree of OA, but it also affects people in their 20s and 30s.

 

Osteoarthritis: Symptoms

The symptoms of osteoarthritis tend to develop slowly. You may notice pain or soreness when you move certain joints or when you’ve been inactive for a prolonged period. The affected joints may also be stiff or creaky. Typically, osteoarthritis leads to morning stiffness that resolves in 30 minutes. When osteoarthritis affects the hands, some people develop bony enlargements in the fingers, which may or may not cause pain.

 

Osteoarthritis: Where Does It Hurt?

In most cases, osteoarthritis develops in the weight-bearing joints of the knees, hips, or spine. It’s also common in the fingers. Other joints such as the elbow, wrist, and ankle are usually not affected, unless an injury is involved.

 

Osteoarthritis: What Causes It?

Every joint comes with a natural shock absorber in the form of cartilage. This firm, rubbery material cushions the ends of the bones and reduces friction in healthy joints. In general, as we age our joints become stiffer and cartilage can become more vulnerable to wear and tear. At the same time, repetitive use of the joints over the years irritates the cartilage. If it deteriorates enough, bone rubs against bone, causing pain and reducing range of motion.

 

Risk Factors You Can’t Control

One of the major risk factors for osteoarthritis is something none of us can control — getting older. Gender also plays a role. Over age 50, more women than men develop osteoarthritis. In most cases, the condition results from normal wear and tear over the years. But some people have a genetic defect or joint abnormality that makes them more vulnerable.

 

Risk Factors You Can Control

Because injured joints are more vulnerable to osteoarthritis, doing anything that damages the joints can raise your risk. This includes sports that have a high rate of injury and jobs that require repetitive motion, such as bending the knees to install flooring. Obesity is another risk factor — it has been linked specifically to osteoarthritis of the hands, knees and hips.

 

Impact on Daily Life

Osteoarthritis affects each person differently. Some people have few symptoms despite the deterioration of their joints. Others experience pain and stiffness that may interfere with daily activities. If bony knobs develop in the small joints of the fingers, tasks such as buttoning a shirt can become difficult. Osteoarthritis of the knees or hips can lead to a limp. And osteoarthritis of the spine can cause debilitating pain and/or numbness.

 

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

To help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis, you’ll need to describe your symptoms in detail, including the location and frequency of any pain. Your doctor will examine the affected joints and may order X-rays or other imaging studies to see how much damage there is, and to rule out other joint conditions. Your doctor may suggest doing blood tests to rule out other forms of arthritis.

 

Long-Term Complications

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis does not affect the body’s organs or cause illness. But it can lead to deformities that take a toll on mobility. Severe loss of cartilage in the knee joints can cause the knees to curve out, creating a bow-legged appearance (shown on the left). Bony spurs along the spine can irritate nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or tingling in some parts of the body.

 

Treatment: Physical Therapy

There is no treatment to stop the erosion of cartilage in the joints, but there are ways to improve joint function. One of these is physical therapy to increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles around the affected joints. The therapist may also apply heat or cold therapies such as heat packs or compresses to relieve pain.

 

Supportive Devices

Supportive devices, such as finger splints or knee braces, can reduce stress on the joints and ease pain. If walking is difficult, canes, crutches, or walkers may be helpful. People with osteoarthritis of the spine may benefit from switching to a firmer mattress.

 

Medication for OA

When osteoarthritis flares up, many patients find relief with over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Relieving creams or sprays can also help when applied directly to the sore area. If pain persists despite the use of pills or creams, your doctor may suggest an injection of steroids or hyaluronans directly into the knee joint.

 

Osteoarthritis and Weight

If you’re overweight, one of the most effective ways to relieve pain and improve function of joints in the knee or hip joints is to shed a few pounds. Even modest weight loss has been shown to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis by easing the strain on weight-bearing joints. Losing weight not only cuts down on pain, but may also reduce long-term joint damage.

 

Osteoarthritis and Exercise

People with osteoarthritis may avoid exercise out of concern that it will cause pain. But low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or bicycling can improve mobility and increase strength. Training with light weights can help by strengthening the muscles that surround your joints. For example, strengthening the quadriceps can reduce pain in the knees. Ask your trainer or physical therapist which exercises are best for you.

 

Preventing Osteoarthritis

The most important thing you can do to ward off osteoarthritis is keep your weight in check. Over the years, extra weight puts stress on the joints and may even alter the normal joint structure. Preventing injuries is also important. Take precautions to avoid repetitive motion injuries on the job. If you play a sport, use proper equipment and observe safety guidelines.