Article by Prof. Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu)., PhD.
Muscle cramps are the common suffering among the people and it is found irrespective of gender, geographical area, nature of food, work pattern etc. But the individuals who often walk for long , stand for prolonged period or give more exercise to their the legs/relative muscles are prone for getting the cramps more likely.
Even though it is not a life threatening problem it disturbs their routine or to their profession even. Ayurveda system of medicine contributes significantly in the treatment of muscle cramps and in few of the cases it provides complete relief too.
Common causative factors for muscle cramps:
Dehydration – lack of sufficient body fluids / water.
Imbalance of electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium etc)
Muscle strain/ over exertion
Wrong shoes/tight wears
Uninterrupted monotonous work
Constant position for a prolonged period etc
Rarely prolonged medication may also result in cramps or worsen the pre existing discomforts.
Clinical features of Muscle cramps:
The presentation may vary from mild twitching to excruciating pain.
Abrupt onset of pain in localized muscular area
Inability to do the proper and routine muscular actions
Bulging lump etc
Common lesions of Muscle cramps
Forearm, Thigh, Abdominal wall, Arms, Flanks, Jaw etc
Why does it occur?
It is caused as a result of involuntary and forcible contraction of relative muscle that does not relax. Hence contracted muscle fibers are stiffened/ swollen and produce series of twitching which results in severe pain on sudden actions. In case of muscular fatigue it may cause even without proper actions also.
Ayurvedic understanding about muscular cramps/spasms:
In Ayurveda, Mamsagata vata and Mamsasthita/Mamsasthayi vata/Mamsashrita vata conditions have been explained.
It is resulted due to prolonged factors which provoke Vata dosha (food-habit-medicine-age-cold geographical area-cold season etc). Further, vitiated vata takes shelter in the debilitated muscles and vitiate the kapha dosha over there.
Thus on declining the muscular strength painful condition followed with spasm/bulging is caused. This is termed as Mamsagata vata or depending upon the location if the Mamsa predominant part is affected ‘Pindikodveshtana’ word is also used in this respect.
Line of treatment for Muscular cramps:
Vata pacifying measures are undertaken. As the Kapha kshaya is also found effort should be carried so as to give strength to the muscular tissue which is the Ashraya (site) of Kapha also.
Pitta dosha even though not directly contribute in the causation of this complaint in case of prolonged illness Pitta is also involved and it is pacified by the Manda (slow) and sthira (stable) drug substances. Rasayana (rejuvenation) is the most apt method to achieve all the above said factors.
Single drugs beneficial in Muscle cramps:
Kooshmanda-Ash gourd-Benincasa hispida
Shunthi-Dry ginger-Zingiber officinale
Chandana-Sandal wood-Santalum album
Vidari-Ipomea tuberose etc
Oleation (Snehana) and Sudation (Swedana):
Oleation and mild sudation will help to pacify Vata dosha.In chronic cases Patrapinda sweda with Vata and pittahara dravyas like Chincha (tamarind),Nirgundi (Vitex negundo),Eranda(castor) etc will help to pacify Vata and hence to stabilize it in its site.
Formulations of choice in Muscular spasms/Cramps:
For external application-
Ashwagandha bala lakshadi taila
Mahamasha taila etc
How to use Ayurvedic oil for muscle cramps:
Any of the above oils is warmed slightly to just above room temperature. Gently rubbed over the cramp area for 5 minutes. If required, gentle steam therapy is administered.
For internal administration-
Ksheerabakla taila(101 avartana)
Maharaja prasarini taila
Goksuradi guggulu etc
Wholesome diet and habits:
Unctuous (oily) and easily digestible food, protein rich eatables, sour and sweet food and beverages, , limited-proper exercise, milk, ghee, Ragi ,proper rest and sleep etc are recommended.
Unwholesome diet and habits:
Night awakening, warm and spicy food, stress and strain, heavy exercise etc are forbidden.