Cramps – What Causes Them and How You Can Avoid Them!

Just about everyone who has exercised has experienced either a cramp or a stitch at some point.

Whether you are a recreational exerciser through to a serious athlete, cramps and stitches can still be frustrating for all.


What is a cramp?

Cramps occurring during exercise are referred to as an Exercise Associated Muscle Cramp, and are a sudden, tight and intense pain that most commonly occurs in the muscle groups directly involved in the exercise.


What causes a cramp?

- EAMC’s occur when a muscle involuntary and forcibly contracts and does not relax, the exact mechanism of which is still unknown.

- A cramp is more likely to occur in tired muscles and ones that are already in a shortened position.

- Poor fitness or exercising at high workloads, as well as poor stretching habits can increase the likelihood that they will occur.

- Although sodium is involved in initiating nerve signals that make muscles contract, and athletes may incur large losses of this during exercise, evidence that this can lead to a cramp is still inconclusive.

- Cramps have also been attributed to the depletion of potassium, calcium and magnesium. However, very little of these are lost during exercise.


How can I avoid a cramp?

- Allow adequate recovery and rest for muscles after hard training sessions.

- Increase strength and fitness. Stronger, fitter muscles are more resilient to fatigue and therefore, cramps.

- Be cautious when changing speed or intensity during the later stages of exercise. Fatigued muscles take longer to adapt to increased workloads.

- Wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing and footwear.


While there remains little strong evidence that dehydration is associated with EAMC, it’s still

important that athletes practice good hydration before and during exercise to optimise training and performance.


How should a cramp be treated?

- Rest and stretching helps decrease muscle contraction and allows the muscle to relax

- Massage can help reduce muscle tension and allow it to relax

- Icing can stop muscle spasm and help relieve pain


If you would like to know more about reducing cramps during exercise then contact

us today at Infinite Health Chatswood - Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology & Massage

Therapy on 02 9412 2222 or feel free to click here for the full article.


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