Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps
[h2]Learn how to prevent and get rid of muscle cramps.[/h2]
Why do muscles cramp during exercise?
There are two scientifically respected theories about exercise and muscle cramps. The first, and most popularized, dehydration or the Electrolyte Imbalance Theory. It states that a muscle may cramp when water and electrolyte levels are depleted, making cramps more likely in hot or high humidity conditions.
Although there is significant evidence to support this theory it does not explain why a cramp can occur when fluid levels are maintained. Studies show that even when electrolytes are replaced at the same rate of loss cramping still occurs in almost 70% of athletes. So while dehydration is implicated for muscle cramps in high temperatures, why do athletes experience them at colder temperature?
This brings us to the second way a muscle may cramp, known as the Neuromuscular Theory. It is physiological in nature. The body has specific protective mechanisms involving the connection between the brain and muscular tissue. Our muscles are guarded by receptors, known as muscle spindles and the golgi tendon organ. Imbedded in our muscles, these receptors protect against over-contracting and over-stretching by sending electrical signals to motor neuron in the spinal cord. During normal contraction these signals are balanced. However muscle fatigue can cause confusion in the receptor signals causing inhibition of the over-contracting mechanism, resulting in a cramp.
How do I prevent muscle cramps?
Preventing Electrolyte Imbalances
1. Hydration – Keep fluid levels up, especially in events lasting longer than 3 hours.
2. Nutrients – Keep electrolytes balanced with proper levels of calcium and potassium.
Preventing Neuromuscular Imbalances
1. Train adequately for the conditions.
2. Stretch the affected muscle(s) regularly for balanced receptor function.
How do I get rid of a muscle cramp?
• Lower the intensity of exercise, or stop completely.
• Try to stay relaxed and gently stretch the area.
• Apply a firm pressure to the ends of the muscle (acts as a ‘reset’ button for the confused receptors).
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