Cramp…. What we know today and How to avoid them!
Muscle cramping is a common, painful and debilitating disturbance of skeletal muscle. It is poorly understood as to why it happens but what we do know is it occurs when the normal contraction/relaxation mechanism within a muscle is impaired.
A muscle cramp is a strong and painful contraction of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to in its worst cases up to 15 minutes. It is an involuntary contraction within a muscle which then won’t relax. Muscle cramp can occur in any muscle within the body but are most common in larger muscle groups. It is not age or gender specific.
Factors influencing muscle cramping:
- Duration of exercise– The longer you exercise, the greater need to replenish your carbohydrate stores. Depleted energy stores lead to fatigue increasing the likelihood of cramp.
- Temperature/humidity– In hot and humid conditions you sweat more, leading to a greater loss fluids and micronutrients. It is vital to prioritise lost fluids and electrolytes and eating carbohydrates can be advantageous. In cooler conditions, fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates should be replenished on a scale of equal importance.
- Dehydration– small shortfalls of hydration within muscles could lead to faulty electrical signalling increasing the likelihood of cramp.
- Poor conditioning– If you complete an intense training session after not doing anything for a period of time you are increasing your likelihood to cramp as your body will be working inefficiently to overcome the demands of exercise.
- Hydration is Key– it is good practice to keep well hydrated when exercising to replace fluid lost through sweating.
- Replenishing Carbohydrates when Exercising- Eating carbohydrate rich foods helps refuel your body’s energy stores.
- Replenishing Electrolytes lost when Exercising- Minerals in the forms sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium need to be replaced.
- Stretching- especially those muscles more prone to cramp like calf’s and hamstrings
- Build training up gradually– poorly conditioned muscles are more susceptible to fatigue increasing the risk of cramp
For further information on this topic or for advice on nutrition and stretching please contact us at FitFab Therapy via our facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Lara Inge- Lead Sports Therapist at FitFab Therapy