Whatever you call it – a muscle spasm, a charley horse or a muscle cramp – it hurts! A muscle spasm can wake you in the middle of the night, interrupt a tennis game, reward you after a long run, or sur-prise you in the middle of a foot reflexology ses-sion.

When a muscle engages, it contracts and shortens. A spasm or cramp is an involuntary static state of contracture in a muscle; a muscle that will not willfully relax.

Muscles spasm when the normal balance of potas-sium and sodium (electrolytes) in the muscle cells is disturbed for a longer period of time than the muscles can withstand.

There are a number of things that can contribute to an imbalance of the electrolytes:

1. Dehydration, from inadequate fluid in-take or excessive sweating.

2. Vigorous exercise, especially when stretching before and afterwards does not occur.

3. Potassium and/or calcium deficiency.

So why does a cramp occur when someone is re-laxing during a reflexology session?

Muscles that have been overly taut for a period of time, such as those of the lower leg or sole of the foot, will relax and lengthen during a reflexology session. That sets up a disruption of the electrolyte balance, causing the muscle to cramp.

If this happens when you are giving a session, don’t panic. The solution is simple. To relax any muscle in the body, you actively engage the antag-onistic (opposing) muscle, which will increase cir-culation to the affected muscle and allow it to lengthen and relax.

If someone on my table cramps up, I immediately place the palm of my hand on the dorsal side of their foot and ask them to strongly pull their foot towards their face. (I don’t use the anatomical term “dorsi-flex”, as not all people are familiar with the term.) At the same time my hand resists their motion, attempt-ing to pull their foot towards my face (plantar-flex). This combined action engages the foot flexor muscles and relaxes the cramping extensor and intrinsic foot muscles.

The hold is held for only two or three seconds and then both the client and I relax our efforts. We imme-diately do it again, and continue to repeat the se-quence of engagement and relaxation until the cramp-ing stops. I find it usually takes three to eight repeti-tions to relax the muscle spasms.

An acupressure method can be added to the stretch protocol above. While performing the movements de-scribed, ask your client to apply pressure with an in-dex finger between her lip and nose, two-thirds of the way up. She holds that point firmly until the cramp subsides.

Adequate hydration, regular foot reflexology, mas-sage of the muscles prone to cramping, a diet high in potassium and calcium, and daily stretching can pre-vent the re-occurrence of muscle cramps.


Karen Ball , NBCR, LMT, CAP, has been a licensed practitioner of bodywork since 1983. She was trained and certified by the Reflexology Association of Canada, and is now located in St. Augustine, FL. This article was adapted from her Reflexology Blog:


January 4, 2014