Forum: Irish / Irish

Cramps in calves and arches
By Festivaldancer1
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 08:16 AM

So sometimes (but not all the time) if I'm dancing for an extended period of time, I get serious cramps in my calves, especially when I go particularly high on relevé, as well as cramps in my arches when I point my foot.

Now this isn't really a problem per se, it's just that I'm attending a workshop this weekend, and the last time I went to one I literally couldn't walk properly for a few days as my entire calf was contracted and paralysed, so I was limping about the place.

This probably was also due to the fact I had done quite an intense workout a couple of days before that...however, I'd rather it not happen again! Any advice?

6 Replies to Cramps in calves and arches

re: Cramps in calves and arches
By FeisForFoodmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 09:57 AM
Edited by FeisForFood (163151) on 2014-02-06 09:58:18
It's likely that you can minimize this by stretching. There's a thread right now on dynamic stretching in the Technique section with some good ideas for dynamic calf stretches. My tip would be to warm up, THEN stretch, before you do your full-out-dancing. You don't want to stretch cold, but you do want to be warm and stretched before you start the intense stuff.

That said, I used to get these ALL the time regardless of stretching, until I started making sure I was getting enough magnesium. My chiropractor recommended a magnesium drink (mine's called Natural Calm, but I don't know where you're located so it may not be available) which did the trick, and I also take baths in epsom salts, which you can probably get where you live (and are maybe a better idea than a drink unless you know you're deficient). Pharmacies/drug stores/etc. carry them. You just put a cup or two in a nice bath and have a good soak. The magnesium aids your muscles and helps them not to cramp up. Someone besides me can maybe speak to the actual science behind that.
re: Cramps in calves and arches
By sarahrID
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:02 AM
Make sure you are very well hydrated before, during and after your workshop. I find that if I'm at all dehydrated (even a little bit), I'll have more problems with cramping. You may also want to try to warm up a bit the day before the workshop, locate any tight spots in your calves and feet, and do a little self-massage to work out any tight spots. While still warm, do some static stretching after you're done working out any knots. I am recovering from some significant issues with my calves (very tight and severe shin splints). My PT recommended that I do my calf stretches in a doorway so I can hold them for a good 1-2 minutes an really give the muscles time to lengthen and unknot. To do that, I stand in the middle of the doorway facing one side (so perpendicular to the doorway), and put my foot as flat as possible against the door jam, toes facing the ceiling and my heel as close as I can to the wall. I the. Sort of wedge myself I against the other side of the doorway so I'm sitting/leaning against it. I can then sit and hold my calf stretch as long as I want. Hope that all makes sense!

Generally, making sure I'm stretched and loose the day before a long class and being hydrated helps me avoid cramping or tight muscles.
re: Cramps in calves and arches (karma: 1)
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:03 AM
^ There's a video on that thread of a dynamic calf stretch which has worked wonders for me - DEFINITELY give that a go!

One cause of cramping is also dehydration. I used to not drink very much water but I've got into the habit of drinking at least 1.5 litres a day on a normal day, closer to 3 litres on a dance or exercise day, and it makes the world of difference. So check how much water you're taking in as well, and try to cut down on diuretics like caffeine (coke, tea, coffee etc).

I also vaguely remember (from animal biology, lol) that potassium and calcium are vital for muscle functioning. So a banana and some milk or yoghurt would be a perfect pre or post dance snack depending on when you get the cramps - if it's during dance, have it before class, if it's the morning after, have it after class.
re: Cramps in calves and arches
By Bobbee
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:10 AM
I do releves for my feet, flexed pike stretch for my calves, and the stretch where you pull your foot up to your behind for my knees. I intersperse these movements in between dances, like every time I do my reel I will do eight releves, and I find it keeps me from having achy legs. Also warm up properly and make sure you are getting enough potassium in your diet, as a deficiency of that can cause cramping.
re: Cramps in calves and arches
By JigEnPointemember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:29 AM
The solution to this, when it happens in ballet, is to do loooots and lots of releves, on a regular basis, to really work on getting those particular muscles stronger. Of course, you definitely need to stretch out really well, immediately after dancing or doing the exercises, in order to keep the cramping from happening. I agree with the poster who said to make sure you're drinking enough water; another thing that helps cramping levels to go down is actually bananas. One of my friends in the ID company I was in until recently brought bunches and bunches of bananas to every single one of our performances... it was the only way he would get through the whole show. :P

Good luck! :)
re: Cramps in calves and arches
By onegirlbandmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Thu Feb 06, 2014 06:11 PM
I agree with everything that has been said so far. I used to get awful calf and arch cramps during class. I only get them occasionally, and not nearly as bad, since I started doing the following things:

- drinking lots of water
- eating a banana before every class
- doing an active warm-up before going into class (like the dynamic stretches that have been mentioned already)
- Rolling out my muscles using a foam roller

I have found great relief from rolling (Mayo-facial Release). I use a foam roller called "The Grid" and it is designed to simulate the deep tissue massage you would get from massage therapy. I find having knot free calves helps in so many ways than just avoiding calf cramps. I roll out my entire legs and my lower back every night.

For my arches my Dad made me a little roller made from several small wooden balls, about the size of a ping pong ball, attached to a wooden dowel. I think he got all the pieces from the hardware store for about $7. I love this foot roller! It is small enough to cary around in my dance bag, and I can even use it in class with my soft shoes on (which is generally when my arches cramp). I also like using this roller on my way home from class. I take a ferry to get home, so I sit on the ferry rolling out my sore tired feet after a hard class.

I hope you find some relief. Cramped muscles are a pain! :P

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