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How To Stop Cramping

Cramping is an involuntary, strong, sustained contraction of a muscle or muscle group. We all experience them at some stage, and when we do, they turn us all into a screaming mess. Here’s some information on the causes of cramping and what you can do to help reduce them.

 

Dehydration

Dehydration due to inefficient fluid intake or increased training (especially in the summer months) often sees an increase in lower limb cramping. Although there isn’t a medically agreed upon explanation for this, it is thought that increased dehydration and subsequent loss of sodium results in the increased sensitivity of local nerve endings. This increased sensitivity means muscles are more prone to involuntary spasm (cramp).

 

Things you can do:

  • Make sure that you’re replacing fluid levels and electrolytes (especially through the summer months). As a general rule, aim for 2-3 liters of water per day when exercising in temperate climates.

  • Make note that every person is different in regards to metabolism and sweating, so you may require more (or less) fluid.

  • Sports drinks are a good source for electrolyte replacement (but be careful of their sugar content).

Mineral deficiency

Low levels or imbalances in calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium result in increased sensitivity of nerve endings, predisposing individuals to cramp. Mineral deficiency is thought to be a contributing factor to cramping experienced by elderly people and during pregnancy due to the changes in mineral uptake.

 

Things you can do:

  • Eat a balanced diet including foods rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Foods such as bananas, potatoes and sweet potatoes, spinach and other dark leafy greens, yoghurt, and nuts and seeds are great.

  • For those lactose intolerant friends of ours, try supplementing dairy with poppy, sesame, celery and chia seeds. Sardines and canned salmon are also rich in calcium.

  • Magnesium supplements are commonly used to help with cramping. Be sure to consult your GP or pharmacist before commencement.

 

Fatigue and overuse

Muscles that have undergone large bouts of continuous activity or haven’t had enough recovery time are poorer at utilising nutrients from the blood. This can result in increased muscle cramping. In addition to overtraining, fatigue to muscles and the energy system results in increased sensitivity of the central nervous system, predisposing the body to cramping.

Things you can do:

  • A planned, gradual increase for your training program. This helps prevent acute overuse of muscles and makes sure you have planned downtime for recovery.

  • Sleep is a really important time for muscle recovery and rest for the central nervous system. Make sure you’re getting minimum 7 hours a night and allowing adequate recovery times after larger bouts of training.

  • Stretching and mobility allows muscles and joints to move better throughout their range and can help in managing cramping after exercise. See the blog best stretches for leg cramps to see your best ammunition for lower limb cramping.

Medication

Less commonly, medication can be the cause of ongoing cramp. Here are some of the more frequent offenders:

  • Diuretics, which are used to control fluid retention and blood pressure

  • Osteoporisis medication

  • Intravenous iron treatments

  • Some asthma medications

  • Some hormone replacements

  • Pain medications such as pregabalin and naproxin

Please note that this is not medical advice and you should always consult with your GP before any changes in medication.

At Eastside Physio + Co, we are committed to delivering the best care to the locals of Surrey Hills and its neighbouring areas. Our skilled and experienced surrey hills physios​ are dedicated to supporting the well-being of our clients, who come from a variety of nearby suburbs, including AshwoodAshburtonAuburnBalwynBlackburnBox HillBurwoodCamberwellCanterburyDoncaster and Hawthorn

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