The weather of this summer has been nothing but usual: record-breaking burning hot days, and non-stop rain with high humidity forecasted for the next few weeks. These crazy weather patterns seem to be universal all around the globe. Our precious Heart, which has been under so much stress due to an extremely volatile and chaotic energy surrounding this planet, is the most vulnerable during the summer months. Chinese medicine considers Ming Mu beans as one of the most effective remedy in protecting our heart during the summer season.
To deal with leg cramps that do not respond well to those lighter version remedies, here are a few things you can try.
- Soak your feet in hot water mixed with epsom salt for 20 minutes. Fill hot (lukewarm rarely works) water in a basin big enough to hold both feet, then add ½ cup of epsom salt. Water level has to be high enough to cover the ankles. Put your feet into the basin, regardless how hot the water initially feels. With heat, all six meridians running on your feet– kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, gallbladder, and bladder–start to open up and Qi and blood flow into the areas of blockage. Chinese medicine regards every single disorder, including leg cramps, as stagnation of Qi and blood flow. Approximately 20 minutes later, you will feel warm and tingly sensation in the lower half of the body.
(Note: Our feet have the most and largest pores of the body, therefore with salt will not only draws toxins out of the body, the body absorbs the magnesium in epsom salts. This method effectively deals with chronic arthritis in the feet and ankles, plantar fasciitis, achilles heel tendonitis, and even toenail fungus infections.)
- After the foot bath, make a fist and rub on the center of the soles.
3. Press and knead on the following points: Taixi (KD3), Kun Lun (BL60), Cheng Shan (BL57), Yang Ling Quan(GB 34), Zu San Li (ST36). Use the thumb to knead forcefully on each point for 30 seconds.
- Squeeze and roll the calf muscles with both hands, begin at the ankle and move gradually upwards, for 2 minutes.
The above is suggested to be a routine before sleep. You can try one or more of the above remedies to find out to which protocols your body reacts most favorably. In a few days, most of your leg cramps will be eliminated.
Chronic and persistent leg cramps usually indicate serious internal orders, most notably pre-diabetic conditions or active diabetes. Please pay attention to your sugar consumptions, and other lifestyle or diet changes.
Most leg cramps respond to gentle massaging and stretching. However, since different people may be relieved in different ways, you have to try and find out what works best for your muscle cramps. For calf cramps, you can try as below:
- Immediately stand on the legs, lean forward gently to stretch the contracted muscle, hold on until the cramp goes away.
- Sit up, straighten the leg and flex the foot. This can be helped by placing a rolled towel under the ball of the foot, hold the towel at both ends, and gently pull the towel toward the head while keeping the knee straight. Hold in this position until the cramp is gone completely.
3. If you can find someone to help, then sit down and straighten the leg, let the helper hold the foot, raise the leg and flex the foot gently toward you. Remember to keep the knee straight.
4.When leg cramps happen during swimming, try to remain calm, hold the toes and raise them toward the chin. Pinch or bit the upper lip can help calm down if necessary.
5.Walk around or jiggle the legs.
6. Rub around the affected muscles.
Leg cramps are sudden and painful. They often occur when the body is at rest, typically during sleep. The muscle cramps can last for a few seconds or up to several minutes. Leg cramps, commonly referred to as charley horses, occur when muscles in the legs contract involuntarily. Muscle groups that mostly involved in leg cramps are calf (back of the lower leg), hamstrings (back of the thigh) and quadriceps (front of the thigh). Some people experience cramps even in their feet, sometimes on their toes.
What Causes Leg Cramps
Leg cramps are common, many people experience it occasionally, elderly people and pregnant women have a higher risk to develop the problem. The cause of leg cramps is not well understood, it may be associated with following factors:
- Exercising, injury and overuse of muscles
- Exposure to cold weather, especially to cold water
- Improper posture of standing or sitting for long periods
- Dehydration of the body, especially in hot weather
- Poor blood flow in the legs (blood vessels narrowing in the legs)
- Electrolyte imbalance or mineral deficiencies, particularly calcium and magnesium
- Medications such as diuretics, statins, lithium, prednisone and nicotinic acid
- Health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disorder, liver cirrhosis, alcoholism, and/or hypothyroidism.
Personally, I experience leg cramps after I dance in 3-inch spikes for many hours. Obviously, I should refrain from wearing those highheels or dancing too much. At this point, I can’t give up either. Here are a few things I do to prevent and/or deal with leg cramps.
Years ago when I was attending a Chinese medical school, a noted medical scholar from China proclaimed that aluminum foil often produce amazing results in treating pain syndromes, from lower back pain to a gout pain on the toes. I’ve completely forgot about it until few weeks ago when a patient asked whether there’s anything she could do at home in relieving a horrendous elbow pain. I told her to cover the elbow with foil. She reported that pain was reduced significantly after three days. Very much intrigued, I urged a patient with ear pain to cover the painful area with foil. Again, the results were impressive. Although tin foil doesn’t get rid of pain totally, it sure looks like a wonderful tool in dealing with all kinds of pain, from head to toe.
Kidney 1 (YongQuan — Gushing Spring)
On sole, in depression with foot in plantar flexion, at the junction of the anterior 1/3 and posterior 2/3 of line connecting base of the 2nd and 3rd toes with the heel.
Massage this point with a moderate to strong pressure for 1-2 minutes.
Shi Mian (Extra Point)
On sole, counter balancing point of Kidney 1. Massage this point for one of two minutes after massaging Kidney 1.
Both can be painful in the beginning, however, pain will subside and warm/hot feelings are likely to emerge.
Massaging around the heel and calf muscles
Wherever there is pain, gently massage those areas with a moderate pressure, while making sure that deep knots in the calf muscles are relaxed.
One of the most effective treatment for plantar fasciitis is: A Foot Bath With Ginger.
Soaking the foot in hot water, mixed with freshly-ground ginger, is a well known therapy in Asia.
Putting your aching foot in ginger-infused hot water for about 10 minutes will accelerate blood flow, while dissolving “dead blood” stuck in the heel and the bottom of the foot. This method is equally effective in treating broken toes.
Epsom salt can be added in lieu of ginger, however, ginger is proved to be far more effective.
Acupuncture provides unparalleled support for many pain-related symptoms, including plantar fasciitis. Essentially, all pain syndromes are caused by restricted blood flow to traumatized area. What-so-called “dead blood” sitting on certain areas aggravate surrounding tissues, and unless fresh blood engulfs the inflamed area, recovery cannot take place.
The most important area for plantar fasciitis is the heel and the center of the sole of the foot. Interestingly, both areas are directly connected with the kidney meridian. Other meridians such as that of the liver, stomach, spleen, bladder and gallbladder play important roles in treating plantar fasciitis.
In Chinese medicine, plantar fasciitis is considered an issue of “tendons and ligaments.” Typically, it takes about 10-12 visits to resolve the issues associated with plantar fasciitis. Acupuncture treatments can be implemented as stand-alone practices, or complement other conventional therapies such as physical therapies focusing on deep stretching, anti-inflammatory medicines, and/or custom-fit orthotics.
If your first few steps out of bed in the morning cause severe pain in the heel of your foot, you may have plantar fasciitis, an overuse injury that affects the sole of the foot. A diagnosis of plantar fasciitis means you have inflamed the tough, fibrous band of tissue (fascia) connecting your heel bone to the base of your toes.
The condition typically starts gradually with mild pain at the heel bone often referred to as a stone bruise. You’re more likely to feel it after (not during) exercise. The pain classically occurs right after getting up in the morning and after a period of sitting.
You’re more likely to develop the condition if you’re female, overweight or have a job that requires a lot of walking or standing on hard surfaces. You’re also at risk if you walk or run for exercise, especially if you have tight calf muscles that limit how far you can flex your ankles. People with very flat feet or very high arches also are more prone to plantar fasciitis.
If you don’t treat plantar fasciitis, it may become a chronic condition. You may not be able to keep up your level of activity, and you may develop tendonitis of achilles, bone spurs, even sciatica or lower back pain because plantar fasciitis can change the way you walk.
Let’s Talk About Foot and Ankle Pain
Your foot is an extremely complex part of your body. A single foot is made up of 38 bones. Which makes both feet hosts to 76 bones!! This multitude of bones is connected by joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, making just one foot even more complex than just the 38 bones! Your foot is subject to many debilitating stresses throughout any given day.
Foot pain and ankle pain account for almost 5 million doctor’s office visits every year. That’s a staggering amount of pain, which can become debilitating in that it will limit your range of normal motion, and seriously limit your quality of life.
What Is Foot and Ankle Pain Caused By?
A wide variety of conditions can cause foot and ankle pain. The quest for fashion, and improper footwear, such as high heeled shoes, can cause much pain. Tight shoes or improperly fitting shoes are the usual culprits responsible for pressure, friction and stress.
Exercise and sports can cause very painful foot and ankle injuries, some of which are temporary, some of which stay with you and end up causing you chronic pain. Improper warm up techniques, improper footwear when exercising, or improper foot usage during sports or exercising are just a few of the most common examples.
Other causes of foot pain are less dependent on outside factors such as those noted above. The more inherent foot problems which involve foot joints, ligaments, nerves, tendons, toes and heels which can cause severe or chronic foot and ankle pain are:
- Abnormal Pronation – your foot does not meet with the ground or leave the ground properly
- Bunions – bone or tissue that protrudes from a foot joint
- Corns – callous growths on top of your toes0
- Hammertoes – middle joint of any given toe pops out
- Heel spurs – abnormal growths attached to the heel bone
- Neuromas – tissue buildup on the nerves of the long bones of the foot
Who Is Most Affected By Foot and Ankle Pain?
Almost everyone is affected by foot and ankle pain at some point in their lifetime, be it simply stepping down wrong, leaning wrong, bad posture or by subjecting their feet to undue stress.
Foot and ankle pain affects two segments of the population mainly. Those whose feet are brand new such as babies and toddlers who are learning to walk, and individuals over the age of 50. Once you are over the age of 50, things start to wear down and feet are no exception.
So How Does Acupuncture Help Foot And Ankle Pain?
Acupuncture is a pain management treatment that has been around for thousands of years. Acupuncture treats the pain both locally and systemically, with acute and chronic pain responding well to the treatment, especially where conventional medicine did not provide an effective treatment.
Acupuncture as a foot and ankle pain treatment can stimulate blood flow to your feet, ankles and lower legs. Different acupuncturists use varying techniques when working to provide pain relief to your ankles, ball of your foot and your heels as well as when working to provide you with chronic foot and ankle pain relief.
Always discuss your particular condition first with your acupuncturist before beginning any treatment. Not everyone responds the same to all treatments. Your acupuncturist will create a customized plan of foot and ankle pain relief with you before treatment is initiated.
Understanding Pain in Relation to Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain and it’s relation to acupuncture is relatively simple and straightforward.
Pain is considered to be a stagnation or blockage of Qi, (energy). Qi runs in what is known as energy channels and meridians throughout your body. When an energy channel or meridian is blocked, Qi is then blocked, and pain will be experienced.
Acupuncture helps to break up the blockages and to establish or re-establish the smooth balanced flow of Qi.