Everyone has experienced some sort of muscle cramp, whether it is on a daily run or sprinting at full speed. It could even be suddenly during the day that you feel something running down your leg because of various circumstances. You will often see runners pull up suddenly and grabbing their sides in agony.
Others will simply run it off. I can speak from personal experience that when training for an event like a marathon one of your worst fears is cramping up so the ultimate question is how to avoid muscle cramping.
If you are coasting along according to the time you planned and suddenly you start to cramp in the last 5km, it can only lead to disappointment. Over time I have researched different aspects of this topic, which have helped me.
Types of Muscle Cramps
Muscle cramps at night – It will usually happen with more mature people that when they are resting they will suffer some sort of cramp. Nobody knows what the cause of these nocturnal cramps are, except that they disturb the sleep pattern, especially when you are woken up a couple of times a night with a pain in the leg.
Vitamin and mineral deficiency. This will relate to calcium and magnesium as well as vitamin B which causes cramping to occur. You will also find that if you are pregnant your mineral balance may have shifted so this is something to watch out for.
Dehydration – with the lack of water, combined with excessive heat these two factors contribute a great deal to cramping. The loss of sodium is another big factor.
Tetany – this is also something that leads to the activation of muscles seizing up when the nerve cells are first sparked off.Contributing factors to this condition are also low calcium
What Causes Muscle Cramps
It’s probably best to start at the root of the problem. Knowing the causes of muscle cramps will prevent further complications from happening.
Muscle overload and fatigue
Here, your muscles are trying to tell you that they can’t take it anymore and they need to rest before you start your next session again. They won’t be able to contract or relax voluntarily anymore and this is when they simply tighten up, causing a cramp.
This type of muscle of cramping is more complex and involves an imbalance of sodium. If the levels differ either in the blood plasma or between the muscle fibres then you may find yourself going into a cramp.
During exercise you will suffer a cramp in particular muscle so it is more localized than a general muscle overload. Other symptoms include slight twitches of muscles when resting.
How to Prevent Muscle Cramps
Time and time again it always comes down to stretching. This especially applies to any type of muscular activity. Think about the prevention of muscle cramps before the onset is always a good idea.
How often do you go out for a quick run before supper, thinking no, there is no time for stretching. As for cooling down, this is just a waste of time, but when the pain kicks in later down the line you will be glad that you had taken necessary preparations.
Drink plenty of water before any physical activity. Water will replace that which you lose when you sweat so it is important to drink enough according to the amount of exercise you set out to do. You will sweat more in warmer conditions and this is why people set out for their jog in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat.
Of course the amount of water you drink varies from one person to the next. Those people who suffer from severe muscle cramps may want to think about adding a little salt to their water. This will apply to someone with an electrolyte deficit disorder.
There are also supplements you can take for this. Salted snacks that contain sodium and potassium are a good way to go. To start off, drink water about an hour before you go out running.
Try to get the balance right because if you were to drink a massive amount directly before a run you would probably feel nauseas. Obviously weight comes into play, but very often we worry too much and you will find during a marathon that people are drinking more than they need to.
A suggested guide tells us that an average 500ml of water should be consumed every hour and this will vary, depending on your weight.
When you have finished exercising, drink another 500ml water. Again, this will also depend on the weight. Adding sodium to this will be a good idea.This is a good time to have a snack to replenish all that was lost.
Treating Muscle Cramps
The treatment of muscle cramps can be accomplished in a variety of different ways. There are over the counter products you can buy, there are many natural ways to get rid of your cramp so that you can carry on running.
Massage is quite a big area that helps with so many muscular abnormalities and this is another one which will help.
Home remedies for muscle cramps
Acupuncture has proved to be extremely effective for all sorts of muscular aches and pains and cramps are no different. By using your index finger and inserting it directly into the acupressure point for 15-20 minutes you will start to feel a whole lot better. Take a few deep breaths and you will be well on your way.
Massage will do wonders. A little massage oil can help. Something like sesame oil is a good one to keep your eye on for. Muscle fibers will start to feel at ease. Heat will also help so something like a hot water bottle may soothe the pain as well.
Herbal teas like chamomile are excellent.
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Vitamins for muscle cramps
Eating the right things at the right times will definitely help your cause. You should also stick to a well balanced diet as this will keep you on track which will include a good selection of vitamins and minerals, but it’s always tricky knowing what to take to keep you going.
You may find a multivitamin will be easiest route to take, but there could be one particular vitamin that you are missing in your diet.
Here is a list of essential vitamins and minerals that will help you achieve optimum health and avoid cramps as much as possible:
- Magnesium – this vitamin keeps the muscles relaxed. It also helps the nervous system by receiving messages from the brain to repair at a faster rate.
- Calcium – this works in conjunction with Magnesium in relaxing and repairing damaged muscle tissues. Any minor tears that form after exercise will welcome this mineral.
- Vitamin B Complex – A deficiency in Vitamin B Complex can lead to cramping so this is an important one to focus on. Protein rebuilds muscle tissue back to health. Vitamin B Complex breaks the protein so that it can repair muscles.
- Vitamin A – The lack of this vitamin leads to the deterioration of joints, which in turn causes cramps, spasms and aches in the muscles. Muscles tissue is rebuilt and, therefore made stronger.
Dealing with Muscle Leg Cramps
You may have felt calf cramps while running being jolted about or you may have been woken up in the night by a cramp in the hamstring. This is not uncommon and they are especially common amongst older adults as well as teens.
An occasional leg cramp will mean you have to train gradually, massage the muscle, take a hot shower or bath and stretch the muscle to relax the fibers. One ways to know if you are overworking yourself is when you start getting a cramp. If you build your program up more than 10% week by week you are definitely stretching it a bit far.
If the aches and pains persist then may have to be treated a doctor. Before analyzing the electrolyte imbalances yourself the doctor will want to make sure that the potassium levels are correct. He may simply prescribe a muscle relaxing medication and this may be all that you need.