There aren’t many injuries that will stop an athlete in the middle of an event, but muscle cramps are SO painful, and SO acute that it will stop even the most determined athletes. For a injuries like that, prevention is much better than a cure.
Preventing muscle cramps isn’t a simple or easy business – cramps can occur when a muscle is under any significant stress. Dehydration, over-use, malnutrition, deficient electrolytes are all common reasons for cramps.
Because cramps can be so multi-faceted there is no 100% fool-proof method of prevention, however, if you can consistently follow these 4 instructions, you will be as safe from cramps as you can possibly be.
Drink more water
All cells in your body (including muscle cells) need nutrients and oxygen to survive. Nutrients and oxygen are transported to cells through blood, and blood needs water.
If you aren’t drinking enough water, less blood will be available to your muscles. They will become fatigued faster, they will become injured more easily, and they will be at a much higher risk of cramping.
Eat more food – especially magnesium/potassium
The nutrients that our cells (including muscle cells) use, come from food. If you’re malnourished, your muscles will respond similarly to if you’re dehydrated – they’ll be fatigued, injure easily, and likely cramp.
Moreover, your muscles need the appropriate electrolytes (magnesium and potassium) to contract at their optimal efficiency. If you are deficient in magnesium or potassium, your muscles will contract less efficiently, become fatigued sooner, and eventually cramp more easily.
Do regular stretching and/or muscle release
When you’re not exercising, your muscles should be relaxing. If your muscles are tight, then they’re contracting – not resting, when you’re not exercising. Without regular rest, your muscles will fatigue and cramp very quickly.
The majority of recurring cramps are a result of people either not stretching enough, or not stretching effectively. You might need to speak to a sports health professional to find a more effective muscle release program for you.
Warm-up every muscle
Doing gentle exercise of every single muscle you’re going to use before exercising is a great way to ensure that they’re filled with blood, and they’re ready for vigorous exercise. This will prevent the muscle from becoming dehydrated, or malnourished – just make sure not to over-do it and fatigue the muscle!
If you’d like to learn how to first-aid a cramp after it’s started, you can check-out this video.
For more information on cramps, email me directly via the contact page. For specific information on an injury you have, or for treatment, contact one of my clinics directly. You can find that information here.
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Dr Mitch Clark