Dealing With Muscle Cramp
Even some of the fittest sportsmen and women suffer from muscle cramps at some time or other. And, whilst they are not uncommon, there is no exact and proven scientific theory as to what causes muscle cramps although there are several factors that contribute towards them occurring and ways in which you can reduce the risks.
What Are Muscle Cramps?Muscle cramps occur when the muscle goes into spasm and does not immediately return to a relaxed state. A common occurrence can often be seen during football matches, in particular when the match goes into extra time or in long-distance races in athletics.
The pain associated with muscle cramps can vary from a slight spasm which may only last for a few seconds to excruciating pain which can go on for anything up to 15 minutes and even when treated, cramps can return.
Factors That Contribute to Muscle CrampsDehydration is one of the most common factors which cause muscle cramps. This is one of the main reasons why you’ll see sportsmen and women and athletes taking on board plenty of water during exercise or competition. It’s not only the water you lose through perspiration but the minerals associated with that loss such as sodium and calcium that can compound the problem. This can cause the muscles to react very sensitively and can make them respond suddenly to any slight form of movement or stress which can force them to contract.
Fatigue and conditioning also play a part in the likelihood of you experiencing muscle cramps. From a conditioning perspective, this is why you should always warm up and do some appropriate stretching exercises before you begin your chosen activity. Flexibility is the key to reducing the likelihood of cramp occurring.
Obviously, the older you get, the more prone you’re likely to suffer from muscle cramps so it’s important that you drink plenty of water both before and during exercise, carry out your warm up preparation exercises and don’t overdo things.
Fatigue is often one of the main reasons why footballers, for example, will experience cramps and you'll often find that this occurs during extra-time in a match which is an additional 30 minutes of play when most players will have prepared for the conventional 90 minutes.
Relieving The Pain From Muscle CrampsStretching the muscle is the solution to relieving the pain caused by a spasm. Calf muscle spasms are typical examples where you’ll often see the victim lying on the ground whilst a physio or fellow team member will hold the leg up off the ground, grasping the muscle with one hand and pulling back on the toes with the other.
Pointing your toes upwards and holding them in that position for several seconds will also help in relieving a spasm and we’ve all probably experienced having to do that from time to time when lying in bed, for example.
In sport, getting fluid back into your body is obviously crucial to recovery from a dehydration perspective and through replacing lost minerals. This is why you’ll often see athletes drinking isotonic drinks as they are far better at replacing minerals such as sodium than mere water can alone. In severe cases of cramps, fluids can even be administered intravenously.
Allowing for an adequate period for rest and ensuring that the muscle is no longer active until your body’s nervous system stops sending signals to the muscle to contract are also crucial to your recovery.