Q&A Video #3: What should I do if I’m cramping up while practicing Clinical Somatics exercises?

Transcript of video:

Today I’m going to answer the question: What should I do if I’m cramping up when I do the exercises?

If you’re cramping up when you’re practicing Clinical Somatics exercises, it means one of two things. First, it could mean that you’re just contracting too hard in the pandiculations. So as a first step, try backing off a little bit. Contract your muscles more gently, and stay in a smaller range of motion, and see if that allows you to avoid the cramping.

If that doesn’t solve the issue, and you’re still cramping up, that means you have a high degree of resting muscle tension. Muscles that are chronically tight, being held in a contracted state all the time, have a higher level of electrical activity even when you’re not moving. This is called being in a “cramp prone state.”

They’ve measured this in athletes using EMG testing, and this increased level of electrical activity and susceptibility to muscle cramping occurs independently of electrolyte depletion and dehydration, which people often blame for muscles cramping up. If you want to learn more about muscle cramping, you can read my article What really causes muscle cramps?.

So, what should you do if you’re cramping up even when you do just a normal, gentle pandiculation? Well, the first thing you can do is to back off even more, and turn the exercise into a micromovement.

Micromovements are extremely small, slow versions of the exercises. You stay in a really small range of motion, but you still move as slowly as you would if you were doing the movement through your full range of motion. By keeping the movement really small, it’s likely that you’ll be able to avoid cramping up.

And, moving extremely slowly through a short range of motion will allow you to become even more sensitive to the sensation you feel right before you’re going to cramp up. When you become sensitive to that sensation, you’ll be better able to avoid it, when you’re practicing Somatics or doing any other physical activity.

Now you might be wondering, are micromovements as effective as doing the full versions of the movements? Yes, they are, especially if you’re in a cramp-prone state. You may not feel like you’re doing much, but if you practice the micromovements really slowly, you will feel very relaxed when you stand up after your practice. And if you do this consistently, you’ll gradually be able to make your movements a little bigger…and then a little bigger, without triggering a cramp. If you want to learn more about micromovements, you can watch my video and read my article The Benefits of Exploring Micromovements.

There are some other things you might want to try if your muscles cramp up frequently, especially if you’re experiencing this throughout your body and not in just one muscle. You can consider taking a magnesium supplement. Magnesium deficiency is very common and it contributes to muscle tension. You can learn more about magnesium deficiency and the different ways to supplement in my article on magnesium.

You can also take a hot bath with Epsom salts, which is very effective for reducing muscle tension. You may also want to try an infrared sauna, if you have access to one, because they’re really effective for reducing muscle tension, improving muscle recovery, and increasing circulation.