Recently I was asked about muscle cramps and what it means ~ that awful ‘charley horse’ feeling that occurs in a muscle.When a muscle engages or contracts, it shortens. A spasm is an involuntary contraction of a muscle and you just can’t simply will it to relax!
Muscles spasm when the normal balance of potassium and sodium (electrolytes) in the muscle cells is disturbed for a longer period of time than the muscles usually can handle. So, even something like a Reflexology session can cause muscle spasms as the circulation is improved during the treatment.
There are a number of things that may contribute to an imbalance of electrolytes:
- Dehydration, from inadequate fluid intake or excessive sweating
- Vigorous exercise, especially if you don’t stretch before and after
- Potassium and/or calcium deficiency
So why may a cramp occur during a foot reflexology session?
Muscles that have been overly taut for a period of time, including the lower leg and sole of the foot, relax during a reflexology session. This may disrupt the electrolyte balance and may cause a muscle to cramp.
If you are a Reflexologist and this happens when you are giving a treatment, the first thing is ‘don’t panic”. The solution is simple. To relax any muscle in the body, you actively engage the antagonistic or opposing muscle, which will increase circulation to the affected muscle and allow it to lengthen and relax. If you are receiving a Reflexology treatment and this happens to you, relax, breathe and allow the trained professional to take care of you.
What I do when a Reflexology client on my table cramps up is to immediately place the palm of my hand on the dorsal side of their foot and ask them to strongly pull their foot towards their face (dorsi-flex). At the same time my hand resists their motion, attempting to pull their foot towards my face (plantar-flex). Obviously, this is done with sensitivity to the flexibility of the client, which I have assessed at the very beginning of the treatment session. This combined action engages the foot flexor muscles and lengthens the extensor and intrinsic foot muscles. The hold is held for a couple of seconds and then both the client and I relax our efforts. We immediately do it again, and continue to repeat the sequence of engagement and relaxation until the cramping stops (usually three or four repetitions is all it takes).
I was recently told of an acupressure to alleviate cramping. While performing the movements described above, you would ask your client to apply pressure with their index finger between their lip and nose, two-thirds of the way up and to hold that point firmly until the cramp subsides. I haven’t tried it yet, but am game next time this happens!
Adequate hydration, regular foot reflexology, massage of the muscles that tend to cramp, a diet high in potassium and calcium, and daily stretching can prevent the re-occurrence of muscle cramps. And my personal favorite, drink a glass of carrot juice each day until your condition improves ~ seriously! Carrot juice contains all types of electrolytes and is yummy. I’ve even encouraged clients to drink a cup before bed to fix their night cramps.
So now you know how to fix those pesky muscle cramps!
Article by: Jacqueline Fairbrass
The School of Complementary Therapies