Leg cramps will most likely be seen in the calf muscles and are common in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Acupuncture for leg cramps is a safe and effective treatment and other acupuncture points are often used at the same time to treat other co-existing pregnancy related symptoms such as carpal tunnel.
It is important to discuss the cramps with the midwife just in case there is a chance that it is a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). From a western medical point of view, it is thought that leg cramps in the last trimester are due to fluctuating calcium and phosphorus levels.
There are a number of factors according to traditional Chinese medicine that could be contributing to the cramps during pregnancy and the liver is a considered common cause.
What role does the liver play according to Chinese medical theory?
Ancient Chinese physicians said that the liver controls the ligaments and tendons and that the liver stores the blood. The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and attaches to the calf muscle and anatomically this tendon has very limited blood supply at the best of times. This deficiency of blood and then leads to a dryness within the calf leading to cramps.
In addition, when the baby is growing in the womb, the baby will take all the blood that it can take without even asking the mum!
How can acupuncture help cramps?
We ask Mr Xiao Meng of the Newtown Acupuncture Centre. ” I would say that acupuncture is one of the most effective ways to assist with muscle relaxation. The needles help stimulate the flow of blood to the muscles, increasing the supply of oxygen and removal of lactic acid, decreasing the likelihood of cramping”
Are there any self help techniques that may help?
It is recommended to lift the foot up and down which activates the Achilles and assists to get more blood to the tendon and help relieve the cramp.
Traditional Chinese medical theory says that acupuncture can be used to stimulate the spleen to help build up liver blood which then will supply blood to the calf to ease the cramp.
Which acupuncture points may be used to treat this?
John Kennedy of The Acupuncture Clinic in Masterton says “Bladder 57 chengshan is one of the very important acupuncture points used for cramps which is located in the calf. Getting the right location of the acupuncture point is one thing, but you need to apply the appropriate needling technique so that the cramp can soften out”.
Chinese herbs can also be used to help nourish the blood.