Sunday, July 6, 2008

Understanding and Preventing Muscle Cramps

We have been through this kind of condition, but athletes are more prone to it. As an athlete myself, I've accepted the fact that I can get this kind of pain one way or the other.

Muscle cramps is the dilemma of sports-minded and physically active individuals like me, because it may hamper their performance and cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Muscle cramp is a sudden and painful contraction of one or more muscles which may result to intense pain and inability to use the affected muscles. In some cases, there can be simultaneous cramps that move body parts in opposite directions. Muscle Cramps come from the vigorous use of muscles. Cramp can result when a muscle or group of muscles that acts together in the movement of a certain part of the body forcefully become involuntary. For example, athletes often complain of muscle cramps in calf muscles. But when it affects the feet, the group of muscles in the fingers too gets cramps.

Among the common causes of muscle cramps include dehydration or excessive loss of body fluid due to vigorous exercise or activities of the muscle; or a muscle fatigue caused mostly from a long rest period for muscles in one position or exertion of muscles leading to injury. In addition, it may also be the product of muscle diseases. It is not always necessary for the cramps to attack “over activated” muscles. In some cases, muscle cramps can attack even when the muscles are at rest or dormant for a very long time. For instance, sitting in the same position for a very long time can cause muscle fatigue and may later become a cramp. Most of the cramps come especially at night, like the cramps in the calf muscle. This last for some time till the bend muscles flex and relax.

Immediate rehydration is the primary treatment for muscle cramps. Health professionals often encourage the consumption of fluids which contain additional electrolytes to speed up recovery. This is because during intense physical activities, the body losses essential amounts of electrolytes that heightens the development of muscle cramps. After rehydration, further treatment may consist of grasping and applying pressure to the affected muscle and immediately putting the muscle at rest until the condition subsides.

Pre-workout activities like warming-up and stretching may also help. These activities may increase flexibility and improve blood flow which may prevent the occurrence of muscle cramps. Engaging in cool downs may greatly reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps. Spending about five minutes of brisk walking after a jog is an example of a cool down exercise. Don't include these five minutes in your exercise time. Using cold packs to reduce muscle tension or warm pads may also treat pain and tenderness that may accompany muscle cramps. Individuals who frequently experience cramps while sleeping should stretch before bedtime to prevent its nighttime cramps.

Those who frequently engage in sports activities and other strenuous activities are encouraged to train with health professionals or seek their approval to gain the benefit of this kind of training. Doctors and health professionals may device a program that may suit one’s physical needs. This is also essential in minimizing or reducing the occurrence of muscle cramps and other conditions that may hamper one’s health and athletic performance.

Resource box : Emmanuel Chavez is a sports writer and holds a graduate degree in
Sports Nutrition. He is active in promoting weight loss programs and healthy lifestyle among inner city youth.

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