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Is your sporting performance being hindered by regular muscle cramping? You may be wondering why this is occurring and how you can manage and prevent them.
Muscle cramping is a common yet painful and involuntary contraction of a skeletal muscle, which can occur without warning or apparent cause (Bergeron, 2008). Put simply, when there is any disruption at any level within the central or peripheral nervous systems, the muscle fibres (known as the muscle spindles and golgi tendon organ proprioceptors) are affected, which consequently influence the length and tone of the muscle, which can result in the muscle cramp. Typically we see them in the calf muscle, hamstrings or quadriceps.
A study looking at the treatment and management of muscle cramping revealed that there are two distinct categories; skeletal muscle overload and fatigue, as well as exertional heat cramps.
Recovery and prevention of skeletal muscle overload cramps:
As soon as you feel a cramp come on, lower the intensity of exercise. Begin passively stretching and massaging the effected muscle group, provided you can do so within pain limits. You may also find that icing the area will provide some short term relief.
Long term, look at improving conditioning and range of motion through the particular area, as well as individual fitness and stretching programs. Adjustments to biomechanics, equipment set up (e.g. bicycle seat height) and relaxation techniques may also be of benefit. Our practitioners at CSSM are able to assist you with this.
Recovery and prevention of exertional heat cramps:
As these cramps typically occur during or after exertion and generally in conjunction with extensive sweat loss, the cause of this kind of cramping is due to electrolyte imbalance.
First port of call is to promptly replenish the deficit, typically with a high salt solution – which is likely to have an effect within a few minutes. A sports drink will also assist in replenishing electrolyte levels.
Dietary potassium intake is also proven to be beneficial – so think about incorporating yoghurt, salmon, avocado, mushrooms, bananas and dark leafy greens such as spinach into your meals.
If you have any further questions, speak to one of our experienced practitioners at CSSM.
Bergeron, M 2008. Muscle Cramps during Exercise � is it fatigue or electrolyte deficit?
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