Contracture, also known as muscle cramp or spasm, is a sustained and involuntary contraction of a particular muscle or group of muscles.
The constant tension of the muscle or its fibers often causes weakness, pain, or prevents normal movements.
Contracture can occur from:
- Stretching or jerky movements.
- Stress or anxiety
- Bad nutrition.
- Bad postures or forced and repetitive postures.
- Overtraining or overexertion.
Although we can all suffer contractures, this condition is more common among athletes, since they are exposed to a greater level of physical impact on a daily basis, or in sedentary people, since their muscles are not trained and it is more difficult for them to function correctly in front of different types of physical activities or efforts.
How to relieve pain caused by a contracture
If you feel a muscle contracture or discomfort, you can use the following tips to find some relief:
With the fingertips, pressure can be applied to the area where the contracture is. In tune with breathing, the pressure can gradually increase until there is an increase in blood supply and the muscle relaxes.
To massage you can also use an anti-inflammatory cream or ointment. Thus the fingers run or the product penetrates the skin better.
Heat the area
To relax a contracted muscle, heat can be applied to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes, either with a hot water bottle or a hot pack.
Important: a towel must be placed between the hot pack or hot water bottle and the skin so that it does not come into direct contact with the hot object. Otherwise, burns or skin irritation may occur.
Depending on the area or the contracted muscle, movements can be made to lengthen. For example, if you have a contracture at the level of the right side of the neck, you can take it to the left to stretch and relieve the contraction.
The breaths are usually accompanied by stretching or self-massage, as they help to gain ranges of motion and relax the body.
For example, when you perform a movement, take a deep breath through your nose, at the moment of mobilizing do a small apnea and when you are reaching the final position of the movement, breathe out gently through your mouth.
Professional treatment to relieve contractures
In some cases, the contracture may be severe or prevent the patient from performing the above movements. In that case, you can seek help from a healthcare professional, who will turn to different techniques and products to relieve pain:
Myofascial release is a technique used to treat dysfunctions of the myofascial system, which cause pain and lack of mobility.
The fascia is a thin, elastic, and hard connective tissue that envelops, supports, and protects most structures within the body, including muscles.
A myofascial restriction in a muscle, depending on the size and area, causes the contraction of this to be weaker and there is a lesser range of motion.
Also called physical therapy, physical therapy is a discipline that offers therapeutic treatment and non-pharmacological rehabilitation to prevent, diagnose and treat symptoms of different ailments.
The objective of this practice is to facilitate the development, maintenance and recovery of the mobility and functionality of the patient’s body. To do this, it uses physical agents:
- Cold hot.
- To be.
As the name implies, complementary therapies are practical that can be administered alongside conventional medical treatment. To relieve contractures you can choose to:
- Acupuncture: it is one of the oldest forms of medicinal practice in human history that is still used. It consists of penetrating the skin with small needles in specific points of the body, with the aim of stimulating certain nerve endings and alleviating different health conditions.
- Auriculotherapy– Has similar medical principles to acupuncture, but focuses solely on the ear. Magnetic microspheres glued to the ear or micromassages are used to stimulate the reflex areas of the ear to affect the affected area of the body.
- Foot reflexology: According to this practice, the foot represents in a schematic way the whole body and its organs. Through massage, the corresponding organs, joints or muscles can be influenced as a reflex. It is usually practiced by many physical therapists, as it has good results and practically no side effects.
Health professionals may also recommend certain medications to relieve muscle contraction.
Among the most common are anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, and muscle relaxants, such as benzodiazepines.
How to have strong muscles
To form or strengthen muscles and stimulate tendon recovery, it is essential to consume proteins, both of animal and vegetable origin.
The latter are optimized if they are combined with rice and other cereals. Carbohydrates and fats are also necessary sources for strong muscles. You can achieve this goal by incorporating these foods into your diet:
- Foods rich in magnesium: such as avocado, brown rice or millet, beans, peas, soy products, sunflower seeds, or yogurt, among others.
- Fruit: especially the one that is rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwis or mangoes.
- Fish: especially mackerel, sole or pink salmon.
Muscle contractures, cramps or spasms are contractions of the fibers of one or more muscles. They cause weakness, pain, and reduced movement.
It occurs more frequently among athletes or sedentary people, and its causes range from dehydration and poor diet, to forced postures, stretching or bruising movements, and exposure to low temperatures.
To relieve contractures you can resort to personal care, such as self-massage, application of heat, or stretching, as well as professional treatments, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, foot reflexology or the use of certain medications.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.