For a dancer, muscle cramps can be crippling. For example, raise your hand if the arches of your foot have ever been in torturous pain mid-way through your pointe class? Or, if you have ever woken up in the middle of the night, after a long day of dancing, feeling as though your calves were being stretched to beyond their limits? Don’t worry, my hand is up in the air too.
Muscles function by alternating in elongating and contracting. Take your upper arm for example, when you bend at the elbow the tricep stretches and elongates and the bicep contracts. A cramp is what happens when the muscle is unable to relax after contracting. It spasms and, often, is goes visibly hard.
So what causes muscle cramps? Well, there is no definite answer to that question however, the following have definitely be linked to the problem:
- Magnesium, potassium, calcium and/or sodium deficiencies
- Being unfit
- Poor muscle tone
- Tight or inflexible muscles
- Restricted blood flow in the arteries
- Wearing high-heeled shoes for long periods of time
There are no quick-fixes for cramps however, you can try the following to try and avoid the initial onset of them:
- Drink plenty of water and increase your intake when you’re exercising
- Increase the amount of sodium and potassium in your diet. You can get sodium from salt (preferably unrefined sea salt) or sports drinks, while potassium can be found in potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and fish.
- Warm up properly prior to exercising and complete a thorough cool down afterwards.
Unfortunately, you could live on a diet that consisted entirely of bananas, salt and Gatorade, but that wouldn’t guarantee you a cramp free existence. So, when they do make themselves known, it’s best to stretch out the muscle and gently massage the area. It won’t disappear straight away but will hopefully lessen its lifespan.
~ Rose :)