10 Ways to Help Heal Muscle Cramps Caused By Chemotherapy
Posted On December 2, 2022
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Muscle cramps can be one of the most challenging side effects of cancer treatment. Cramps can occur at any point during or after a course of treatment, and they’re usually more intense when they first start. If you’ve just learned that you have cancer, cramps may also happen more often and for longer periods of time. The exact cause remains unknown, but many researchers believe that muscle cramping can be linked to the disruption in your body’s chemical balance caused by chemotherapy drugs — specifically, how these drugs affect your muscles, nerves, and the glands that produce urine. As much as you might want to think otherwise, muscle cramps are not something you can “get over.” But if you’re willing to look past it and do everything in your power to combat it, there are plenty of ways you can ease the discomfort and even prevent it from occurring again in the future. Read on for 10 tips on how to help heal muscle cramps caused by chemotherapy.
Stay active as much as you can
Exercise not only helps build your muscles and decrease fatigue, but it may also help relieve pain. The warm temperatures created by exercise may also help inflammation, which is a common cause of muscle cramps. As you heal from muscle cramps caused by chemotherapy, try to stay active as much as you can. This will help prevent cramps and increase your overall strength. If you’re unable to walk or stand, try using a stationary bike. If you’re able to walk, try to walk as much as you can. Gentle stretching, light gardening, yoga, walking, swimming, and light biking are all easy exercises that may help you get rid of cramps.
Drink plenty of water
Water is important for the chemical balance of the body, and it’s even more important when you’re getting chemotherapy. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the best ways to ease muscle cramps caused by chemotherapy is to drink plenty of water. Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and eat smaller meals throughout the day, as you can help your body stay hydrated. Stick to water—not sweetened beverages or soft drinks — as they are high in sugar and can cause an electrolyte imbalance that can contribute to muscle cramps. Avoid caffeinated beverages as they may contribute to dehydration. Staying hydrated also helps to decrease cramps by preventing a disturbance in the body’s electrolyte balance, which can lead to a more intense cramp. Drinking water also helps to flush toxins and waste products out of your body, which can help decrease the discomfort caused by cramps.
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is very important for your overall health, especially when your body is going through big changes. You may be experiencing changes in your energy levels, your energy needs, and how you feel all at the same time. This could make it difficult, if not impossible, to get all of the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. An easy way to keep your electrolyte balance stable and help ease your muscle cramps caused by chemotherapy is to eat a diet rich in potassium. Potassium helps to keep electrolytes — like sodium and chloride — in a balanced, stable state, which can help prevent cramps. Eating lean meat, fish, bananas, potatoes, and seasonal fruits that are high in vitamin B can also help speed up your metabolism and strengthen your immune system.
Don’t skip meals
Some of the side effects caused by chemotherapy, like cramps, can occur more often if you skip meals. Squeezing in a quick snack here and there will not help you avoid cramps; you must eat regularly and in regular sized portions throughout the day if you want to avoid them. If you’re experiencing cramps, try to keep yourself hydrated and fed by eating small, regularly-sized meals throughout the day. If possible, try to avoid skipping meals, as this can contribute to cramps.
Take a warm bath or shower
A warm bath or shower can help relax you and relieve muscle tension. Some research shows that soaking in warm water can help break down the proteins in your muscles, making them less stiff and less likely to cramp. You can also try soaking in a tub of water that is just a little too hot. This gentle heat can break down proteins, while still allowing you to remain comfortable. Other research suggests that taking a hot shower before bed may help calm your muscles and relax you as you fall asleep.
Get some rest when you can
As hard as it might be to do, try to limit your physical activity as much as possible and take breaks from your usual activities whenever you can. This will help to decrease the risk of cramps and prevent them from occurring. You may even want to seek a cramp-relief massage or reflexology if you can find someone local who does this type of practice. If you feel you need to move, try to pick up some gentle, low-impact exercises that can be done while sitting or lying down.
Exercise regularly, but not too strenuously
Regular exercise has many benefits, like making it less likely that chemotherapy will cause muscle cramps. However, you don’t want to increase the intensity of your normal daily activities, as this could be dangerous and cause you significant pain. Instead, try to stay as active as possible while still taking care to protect your muscles.
Use compression stockings and support hose
Wearing compression stockings or support hose can help to decrease the rapid loss of fluids and minerals that can contribute to cramps by keeping your legs warmer and helping to keep your body hydrated. Try to keep your legs elevated and covered whenever you can.
Try massage therapy or acupuncture
There are a variety of alternative therapies available, such as massage therapy or acupuncture, that help to relax your muscles and ease cramps. You can try to find a local practitioner who offers these services, or you can research them online to find a practitioner who specializes in treating cramps.
Cramps are usually a result of a lack of electrolytes in the body. Dehydration, excessive sweating, or eating too much salt in your food can cause this. The best way to prevent cramps is to drink water and eat foods that are high in potassium, such as fruits and vegetables. If you are already experiencing cramps, you can also try taking a potassium supplement. You can also try massaging your leg muscles with a water-soaked towel to increase blood flow, which will help bring out cramps. These tips can help you heal from your cramps and prevent them from occurring again. Whether your cramps are caused by chemotherapy or something else, it’s important to stay active and drink plenty of water. If you’re experiencing cramps, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in potassium.
Dr. Ronald Bissell is a retired surgeon, author of 6 books on Personal and Spiritual Growth, writer of numerous articles and facilitator of workshops. He has been giving talks to help people with life-threatening diseases for the past 10 years. After three years of chemotherapy he recently had a bone marrow transplant to treat Multiple Myeloma. His work now involves helping others with life-threatening diseases as well as teaching people how to live their best lives without fear or anxiety.