Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why You Get Muscle Cramps

This past weekend, I did a race known in Michigan as "The Iceman." It is a 28 mile mountain bike race through Traverse City, MI.  It was a lot of fun and we were all lucky with an amazing 50 degree sunny day.

My race ended up bringing back back memories from high school.  Memories of painful cramps.  Growing up, playing sports, I would always got painful muscular cramps in my calves during the first few football games every year.  It also applied to playing rugby during the summer during grad school.  I had forgotten how bad I cramp up.  First my calves, then my quads, then my adductor magnus.

Everyone always had their own special cure for cramps.  Drink more water, stretch more, drink Gatorade.  I saw the Philadelphia Eagles give their players pickle juice one year in hopes of preventing them.  I took some pickle juice to a rugby game with me after that.  I didn't think that it would get warm.  After drinking it, running around for a bit, I threw it up.  End of my personal pickle juice experiment.

Reading through the literature and doing a google search, muscle cramps still remain an unsolved problem.

There are a few theories.  First, dehydration.  Drink more water.  Stay hydrated.  While this prevails, they have studied athletes that cramp and found that many were still very hydrated.

Second, electrolyte theory.  You have to have the correct sodium/potassium balance.  Hence,  the Gatorade revolution.  On a side note, if you go lift weights for 45 min, you don't need to slug down a 32 oz bottle of Gatorade.  This hypothesis suggests that there is an imbalance between sodium/potassium around the nerve fibers that excite a muscle.  This makes them hypersensitive.  Cramps first start as a twinge.  They have measured electrolyte levels in Ironmen in those that had suffered cramps and those that did not.  No difference in their electrolyte levels.

Another theory states that cramps come from an imbalance between the signals that excite a muscle and the signals that relax a muscle.  This imbalance comes from fatigue.  No studies have been done on this last theory.

So no true scientific evidence has emerged yet in the cause of muscle cramps.  While I can't offer any suggestions besides to try to do the activity your going to do with same intensity and duration as your activity.  I can suggest you leave the warm pickle juice alone.

6 comments:

jason @ personal trainer said...

It's a fine balance, isn't it, between too much and too little in order to prevent cramps. It's up to you to find the right balance for you.

But I agree - stay off the pickle juice!

sai krupa said...

It's really good to have the info of your experiences and ideas to stop the muscle cramps, This will very useful to get the initial idea regarding it. Thank you.

Kristal Byrnes said...

It's true that muscle cramps occur when we least expect it. We'll never know when our involuntary muscles will refuse to relax. However, it is still best if we prepare well before an activity to lessen the chances of us getting cramps.



Kristal Byrnes

Leslie Lim said...

I read your blog.I thought it was great.. Hope you have a great day. God bless.

Rica
www.imarksweb.org

Leslie Lim said...

I read your blog.I thought it was great.. Hope you have a great day. God bless.

Rica
www.imarksweb.org

sarah lee said...

I really enjoyed reading your article. I found this as an informative and interesting post, so i think it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the effort you have made in writing this article.


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