Why do muscles cramp?

We’ve all been there, whether it’s during or after sport, sitting on the couch or during the night, nice as you like, then BOOM something cramps up! You hobble around sometimes screaming in pain from the shock of it all or are ripped from a delightful sleep and try to stretch off or grab the offending muscle until the pain subsides!

What is skeletal muscle cramp?


  • Powerful involuntary skeletal muscle contraction during or immediately after activity, with no underlying metabolic, neural or endocrine pathology.


  • 12-year study of marathon medical issues showed only 6.1% athletes suffered with cramp, meaning only 1.2/1000 of participants.
  • Family history of cramp can predispose.
  • Men are more likely to suffer exercise cramp over women due to higher numbers of fast twitch muscle fibres.
  • Studies have shown correlations between higher exercises intensity and duration will result in increased cramp and individuals who cramp more are predisposed to more tendon and ligament injuries.

Theories / The Science Bit –

  • Thought to be due to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance.
  • Increased sweating causes the extracellular fluid compartment to contract, leading to a loss of interstitial volume.
  • Increased sweating causes reduced sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride and potassium, this causes mechanical defects to nerve endings and increased ionic and neurotransmitter concentration and thus hyperexcitable motor nerve units and spontaneous discharge, leading to cramp.
  • All studies supporting these theories have shown no cause and effect, relating to cramps.

Ineffective Treatments –

  • Lack of evidence to support the efficacy of salt tablets and magnesium supplements.
  • Quinine reduces night and idiopathic cramps, however is now prohibited in the USA as it can reduce blood platelet levels.

Effective Treatment –

  • Re-educate agonist muscles i.e. – strengthen weak muscles around the cramping ones, for example: hamstrings generally cramp due to overloading and compensating for Glute Max weakness.
  • K-tape and compression garments cause skin convolutions and increase local blood flow.
  • Massage therapy to reduce neural excitability.
  • Pickle juice (1ml per KG body weight) = salt and acetic acid to trigger inhibitory reflex.
  • Stretching is still the most effective way to relive fatigue induced muscle cramps.


Source – Physiotutors


Pilates: How do you start?

Have you always wanted to try Pilates or have you been to a class and found it too difficult to understand? These simple exercises explain how to get the basic movements of Pilates before you start more complex exercises.

If you would like to know more about Pilates, want a 1:1 session or fancy coming along to one of our Pilates classes then get in touch with Lisa on 01236 425661, email, get in touch via social media or visit our website at

Exercises provided courtesy of our exercise programme partner.

finding neutral pilates

Finding neutral:

Lie on your back with your feet and knees hip distance apart, with your arms by your side. Place your thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond shape, and place it over your lower abdomen. Your fingers touch your pubic bone, and the base of your thumbs rest next to your belly button. Find neutral by tilting your pelvis and make sure your diamond is parallel to the floor.

centering pilates


Lie on your back with your feet and knees hip distance apart, with your arms by your side. Place your thumbs and index fingers together to form a diamond shape, and place it over your lower abdomen. Your fingers touch your pubic bone, and the base of your thumbs rest next to your belly button. Find neutral by tilting your pelvis and make sure your diamond is parallel to the floor. Imagine a belt sitting below your belly button tightening, as you gently contract your lower abdominal muscles.


supine pilates

Supine start position:

Lie on your back, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet firmly on the floor. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, with your elbows bent resting on the floor. Allow your spine to lengthen and relax. Encourage areas of your body in contact with the mat to feel heavy and supported. Soften your thighs and hips, and widen your chest. Lengthen your neck and relax your jaw and face.

rib cage placement pilates

Rib cage placement:

Lie on your back with your feet and knees hip distance apart, with your arms by your side. Soften your ribs, to make them lower to the ground and in line with your pelvis. Do not force your mid-back into the floor. Inhale as you take your arms up towards the ceiling, and exhale as you take your arms over your head, but maintaining your rib cage alignment. To return to the start position, inhale as you take your arms up towards the ceiling, and exhale as you place your arms back by your side.

head and neck placement pilates

Head and neck placement:

Lie on your back with your feet and knees hip distance apart, with your arms by your side. Lengthen the crown of your head away from your tail bone to create a sense of length through the spine. Avoid poking your chin towards the ceiling.

lateral pilates

Lateral breathing:

Sit down in a comfortable position, and inhale to the lower back aspect of your ribcage, so that your ribs move laterally. Make sure you are not breathing from your upper rib cage, or the abdomen.

shoulder blade placement

Shoulder blade placement:

Sit in a comfortable position. Glide your shoulder blades gently down and inwards to the spine, to allow your collar bone and chest to widen. Do not squeeze your shoulder blades together.

pron e

Prone start position:

Lie on your stomach, and rest your forehead on the back of your hands. Your feet and knees should be parallel to your hips. Lengthen your neck and gently draw your shoulder blades towards the spine. If there is discomfort in your lower spine, place a small folded towel under your abdomen for extra support. Keep your pelvis in neutral by avoiding flattening or arching your lower back, but your lower back should feel lengthened.

side lying start position pilates#

Side lying start position:

Lie on one side, with both knees bent in front of you so that your hips and knees are at right angles, and your arms in front of you together. Lengthen your top waistband to create a small space between your waste and the mat. Contract your deep abdominal muscles, and find a neutral position of your pelvis.

four point kneeling

Four point kneeling:

Kneel on all fours on the mat. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders, with your knees beneath your hips. Lengthen your arms, but avoid locking your elbows. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted. As you exhale, tilt your pelvis backwards allowing your lower back to round. As you inhale, lengthen your spine and tilt your pelvis forward, allowing your back to arch slightly. A neutral position is neither tucked nor arched. Do not allow your head to drop below the level of your spine.


Back pain

Four simple exercises for lower back pain


Low back pain is the most common reason people book an appointment with us. It is rarely serious and often improves by taking over the counter painkillers, (anti-inflammatories normally, although always check with your GP before starting any new medications), staying active by adapting your normal activities rather than completely avoiding them and by exercise.

The following exercises are easy to do in the comfort of your own home, they are safe and will help get your back moving.

Exercises provided courtesy of our exercise programme partner.

It is normal for these exercises to feel uncomfortable or mildly painful but do not push into severe pain.

Lumbar rotation


Bend your knees, and keeping your feet flat on the floor, rotate your hips to one side creating a rotation through your lower back. Only go as far as feels comfortable, you do not need to get your knees to the floor. Return to the opposite side. This is an excellent lower back mobility exercise, especially if you have acute lower back pain or disc problems.

Perform 30s times daily | Repeat 2-3 times | Hold for 2-3 | Perform both sides


Read more: Marginal gains: what are they and should I use them?

Pelvic tilt lying


Lie flat on your back, and engage your deep core muscles by drawing your belly button inwards (towards your spine slightly), while flattening your spine against the floor, then relax. Repeat as required.

Perform 30s times daily | Repeat 2-3 times | Hold for 2-3


Read more: What is Pilates and how can it benefit you?

Single leg back stretch


Lie flat on your back, and bend your knee towards your chest. Hold this position and feel a gentle stretch in your back. If you get any groin pain while doing this exercise, stop and inform your therapist. Relax, and then repeat as necessary.


Read more: Returning to sport: how to balance injury prevention and performance

Back extension medium


Lie on your front, and rest on your forearms. Straighten your arms to a 90 degree position as shown. Hold this position. Your back will be arched. Start gently with this exercise as it can cause some stiffness when you first begin.


If you have any concerns or questions about your back pain then please get in touch on 01236 425661, email at or contact us on social media.


Marginal gains: what are they and should I use them?

“Marginal gains” is the term made famous by the success of Team GB’s Olympic cycling team in winning multiple gold medals and by Team Sky winning the Tour de France.

They look for marginal gains by examining how they could gain 1% improvements through simple to achieve methods and have these 1% gains accumulate to make larger changes. They used a number of strategies for this including:

  • Providing each athlete with their own pillow and having a personal sleep strategy
  • Painting the floor of the mechanic area white to pick up on any dust particles which may get into the bikes
  • Analysing performance times to personalise training regimes as different people peak in the morning or afternoon. (This was linked to the sleep strategy to ensure peak performance)
  • Looking at the aerodynamics of the bikes
  • Improving infection control measures to reduce colds/infections
  • Improving diet

I personally much prefer Kevin Bridges’ marginal gains approach of losing weight: “switch from eating McCoys crisps to Quavers or have fried rather than deep-fried food”

Read more: How to treat tennis elbow

How does this apply to non-olympians?

The basic concept of marginal gains is to look for imperfections in your training/work/sport and improve them. Essentially a micro-managing of all aspects of your life. I can certainly think of a few things that I need to improve on without getting a microscope out (please feel free not to email me any suggestions!)

Where this can be useful from a physiotherapy perspective is in longer-term rehab. We regularly deal with conditions which require regular exercises over a prolonged period of time to allow a full recovery. For example, this could be after a  cruciate ligament injury to return to football; following joint replacement surgery to be able to walk around the shops or with shoulder rotator cuff injuries just to be able to put your jacket on.

Read more: What is Pilates and how can it benefit you?

Practical use of marginal gains can be just creating the time each day to work on your rehab by cutting something else out. It also applies to making sure you are physically ready to work on your exercises by finding out whether first thing in the morning or after work is a better option for you.

Diet and Sleep are key to recovery from injury and also to improving performance. We work alongside Ambition Nutrition who can advise on this more effectively than we can.

Marginal Gains for performance

At JMC Physiocures we can also offer advice on marginal gains for sports performance. This can be in the form of massage to reduce DOMS, advice on an injury prevention programme or a specific strengthening issue to help with technique. We also provide Pilates classes and work with personal trainers like Michael McCartney to help focus training on your goals.

Overall the idea of marginal gains is as simple and complicated as identifying the things you could do better and then making them better. If you are anything like me then I am sure you have a to-do-list or if you are like William then you will have 3472 post-it notes so all we have to do is pick one thing off the list at a time and make it better!


What is Pilates and how can it benefit you?

Try telling it to the Scottish weather, but spring has indeed sprung. With us already in April, perhaps you’re continuing to endeavor with a New Year’s resolution you’d made in  January? Or maybe the new season has you in the mood to try something new?

Let us introduce you to Pilates. We’ll explain what exactly it is, why it can be of significant benefit to you, and how you can even join classes here with us at JMC Physiocures.

What is Pilates?

Pilates is a form of low impact exercise which focuses on building core strength and stability and spinal mobility through exercises performed in any postural position: sitting, standing, or lying. It is sometimes done with equipment such as resistance bands, Pilates rings and small weights. The exercises are designed to incorporate the breath and improve your body’s awareness.


Pilates origins

Pilates was created by Josef Pilates, who ahead of his time thought that liftestyle, bad postures and inefficient breathing were causes of bad health, much of which can be said of today’s lifestyles.

Pilates developed an exercise program initially called “Contrology” to utilise the mind for muscle control, particularly the postural muscles.

Click the link below to see an original Pilates exercise “The Boomerang”:

As you can imagine….not commonly practiced now!

Who is Pilates for?

Pilates exercises can be made harder or easier depending on individual requirements, therefore it is all inclusive. There are some exercises with certain contraindications, however a qualified instructor will know your history and avoid or adapt these exercises. Most classes are performed on floor mats, therefore good mobility up/down to the floor is required. Individuals with severe osteoporosis, acute herniated disc and unstable blood pressure may not be recommended.

If you are in doubt of your suitability contact us on and our physio and Pilates Instructor Lisa will be able to advise you.

pilates v.jpg

Benefits of Pilates

  • With today’s lifestyles we’re either sitting hunched over a desk or driving, carrying heavy bags or tools, or head in our phones and iPad’s, therefore Pilates is designed to help improve your posture.
  • Muscle strength – Pilates works by challenging slings of muscles, after any good workout you will be sore or tender, this is called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) and is completely normal. After some time 8-12 weeks or sooner you’ll notice a difference in your strength and possibly muscle tone too.
  • Body awareness and flexibility – Pilates exercises, no matter the position, are performed in neutral spine position, everyone’s neutral is different, so it’s about learning how your body moves and working on improving any imbalances you may have. Once you have more awareness you’ll see new habits creep in to your daily life such as sitting more comfortably at work, utilising your core for carrying those tools or shopping bags. Along with this benefit, the exercises work on spinal and joint mobility, through stretching and segmental spinal movement (moving each vertebrae and reducing stiffness).
  • Wellbeing and stress reduction – As life can be pretty busy, it’s nice to take some time for yourself and focus on you! With Pilates there is a lot to think about, technique is KEY when performing the exercises; you can switch off from the world focus on your exercises, relax and more importantly have fun!

Pilates class tips:

  • Size – ensure your class is small, if you’re in a large class of say 20+ people, that’s a lot for the instructor to keep an eye on, to correct or improve technique. By the time the instructor has gone round you all – your muscles will be burning and your technique may have wandered. Besides who likes to be sardined in next to some stranger doing exercises!
  • Feedback – feedback from your instructor is key, that’s why you’re there. If you’re completely new to Pilates you may feel your instructor is regularly correcting your position, this is for your benefit, stick with it YOU WILL GET THERE!
  • 1:1’s – these are of great benefit before you start your Pilates classes. The instructor will chat to you about Pilates and your goals, assess your movement and control, run through the Pilates starting positions and some exercises to ensure you’re good to go when you start your class.

pilates vi

Pilates at JMC Physiocures:

At JMC Physiocures we offer clinical Pilates, these sessions are led by our Physio Lisa. Classes are small max 10 per class and everyone attends for an hour 1:1 session with Lisa prior to starting. Here, Lisa can get to know your goals, your history and guide you through the Pilates start up positions, followed by a 30-minute class. Don’t worry about remembering these new positions and exercises as they’ll be sent out to you to practice prior to the beginning of classes.

Our beginner block in Hamilton runs on a Wednesday between 5.30pm and 6.30pm at Whitehill Neighbourhood Centre. We also offer beginner’s blocks in Airdrie on a Thursday between 11:30am and 12:30pm.

Cost of the block is £90, this includes your initial 1 hour 1:1 session and six weekly classes. Should you wish to continue various blocks are available (£8 per class), to keep class sizes small we currently do no operate a pay-as-you-go policy.

We do run a later, and more advanced, class on a Wednesday night in Hamilton at 6.30pm – 7.30pm, however this is currently at capacity.

If you’re keen or would like more info please contact our admin team on or Lisa directly on



Balancing act: ankle injuries

A common complaint we hear from people is that they have “weak ankles” or in the sporting world it will be referred to sarcastically as “you’ve got chocolate ankles”.

It inevitably starts with someone going over on their ankle and sustaining a typical inversion injury to their lateral ankle ligaments.  Ankles are the most commonly injured body part – each year approximately 8 million people sprain an ankle.  Millions of those will then go on to sprain that same ankle, or their other ankle, in the future.  The recurrence rate for ankle sprains is at least 30% and depending on what numbers you use, it may be as high as 80%.

Read more: Pain in the neck? Exercises for neck pain

However, I believe and it is widely regarded within the physio world, that many of those second (and often third and fourth) sprains could be avoided with an easy course of treatment and rehab.

Patricia Flavel (AUS) finish line Athletics 2000 Sydney PG
© Sport the library/Tom Putt Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Athletics – Patricia Flavel (AUS) at finish line

What is balance?

Balance is the ability to maintain your centre of gravity (vertical line from centre of mass) within your base of support with minimal postural sway.

A healthy balance system allows us to see clearly while moving, identifying our orientation with respect to gravity, determining direction and speed of movement, and the ability to make automatic postural adjustments to maintain posture and stability in various conditions and activities.

Maintaining balance requires coordination of input from multiple sensory systems that send information to our brain about our body’s position.


How to improve my balance?

In essence, the key to improving your balance is simple: sand on one leg, try not to wobble, hold for a minute and repeat.

Balance training is supremely low-tech but several studies have shown that the treatment, simple as it is, can be quite beneficial. All you need is simply a little space, a table or wall nearby to steady yourself if needed and a pillow.  You need to firstly ensure that you can comfortably weight bear on the joint before starting balance training.

Read more: Five tips to help manage back pain

Begin by testing the limits of your equilibrium, with the aim being to stand safely and unaided for 1 minute, the pillow can then be used to introduce an unstable surface and make the exercise a little more challenging.  Once you can achieve this you have a good starting base to progress your rehab to the level of recovery that is required for each individual.  This can then be progressed to single leg standing whilst throwing/catching a ball or for the higher-level athlete it may consist of single leg hopping over a box whilst pivoting through 90 degrees.  Either way as their balance improves you will find that their pain subsides and their confidence returns, thus allowing them to return to the gym or football, or more importantly for others, being able to wear their heels again!

So please don’t keep living with those “weak ankles” that are stopping you from your sports, or just impacting your Saturday night out with friends.

If you want some helpful advice or treatment for any persistent injury then come and see one of our experienced members of staff at JMC Physiocures, 01236 425 661 or 07808 552 520.

Check out more of our blogs here.

Injuries, neck pain

Pain in the neck? Exercises for neck pain

Neck pain is a common problem and can often radiate out to the shoulders and arms or cause headaches.

Please try the exercises below to help with any neck pain. Also remember to take painkillers if needed and stay active as neck pain is rarely serious.

Thanks again to for providing us with the exercises.

N.B. It is normal for these exercises to feel uncomfortable or mildly painful but do not push into severe pain.

Neck rotation:

neck rotation

Rotate your neck slowly to the left by looking over your left shoulder. Take your neck to a comfortable end of range. Repeat to the right. Make sure you keep your shoulder and back relaxed. This is an excellent exercise to improve rotation and mobility in your neck.

Repeat 4-6 times | Hold for 2-3 | Perform both sides


Neck side flexion mobilisation:

neck side flexion mobilisation

Ensuring your nose is pointing forwards, bend your neck as if you were taking your left ear towards your left shoulder. Now repeat to the right. Keep the movement gentle and rhythmical. This exercise will help improve mobility to your neck.

Repeat 4-6 times | Hold for 2-3 | Perform both sides


Neck retraction:

neck retraction

Pull your head back as far as comfortable and down slightly. You will feel some gentle tension at the front and back of your neck. This exercise will help your neck and upper back posture.

Perform 2-3 seconds times daily | Repeat 6-8 times | Hold for 2-3




Lean over holding on to a chair or table, let your arm hang down by your side, and swing your arm gently in circles. Try to let momentum and gravity move your arm. Go anti-clockwise and clockwise. This exercise is a great way to passively mobilise a stiff shoulder.

Repeat 2-3 x 10 each direction times | Hold for 2-3 | Perform both sides


Standing/sitting retraction:

standing or sitting retraction

Standing or sitting, with good posture, pull your arms backwards while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold the contraction and then relax, or simply hold the contraction for a longer period of time. You will feel a muscular contraction around and between your shoulder blades.

Perform 3-5 seconds times daily | Repeat 6-8 times | Hold for 2-3


Shoulder shrugs up:

shoulder shrugs up

Shrug your shoulders upwards, towards the ceiling, to increase strength in your upper shoulder muscles (upper trapezius).


Shoulder shrugs back:

shoulder shrugs back

Shrug your shoulders backwards, squeezing your shoulder blades together. You will feel a muscular contraction around and between your shoulder blades (rhomboid and shoulder blade muscles).


Bruegger’s posture sitting:

bruegger's posture sitting

Sit on the edge of a chair, and open your legs and allow them to relax outwards. Keep your body and spine tall, lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling, and arch your lower back slightly. Turn your arms outwards so your palms are facing forwards, and draw your shoulder blades down and towards the midline. Make a gentle double chin with your head at the same time. Breathe deeply throughout. You will feel a stretch across your chest and front, as well as muscles working in your back, all helping to improve your posture.


If your neck pain is not improving and you would like some advice or treatment then find out how we can help by calling 01236 425661, email, contact us via Social media or visit our website on 

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