Muscle cramps are a typical situation skilled throughout endurance train and lots of sports activities. Often known as exercise-associated muscle cramps, these sustained and painful muscle contractions are likely to happen throughout extended exertion together with train and bodily labor that leads to fatigue. Regardless of their frequency, the trigger and remedy for muscle cramps isn’t nicely understood by many leisure and aggressive athletes.
Muscle cramps that happen throughout train are broadly regarded as brought on by dehydration and electrolyte imbalances within the muscle. This is sensible, as muscle cramps appear to be extra possible throughout extended train in a sizzling, humid surroundings during which sweat loss might trigger a lack of each water and salt from sweat. Generally, EAMC are erroneously known as “warmth cramps,” although they’ll happen in cooler circumstances. Moreover, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances would have an effect on your complete physique, whereas muscle cramps happen solely within the working muscle mass, sometimes the gastrocnemius within the decrease leg. It’s also value noting that the simplest remedy for muscle cramps – stretching the affected muscle – doesn’t change fluid or electrolytes. These observations recommend that EAMC have a trigger aside from fluid and electrolyte loss throughout train.
Analysis additionally doesn’t help the notion that dehydration or electrolyte abnormalities are the reason for muscle cramps that happen throughout train. For instance, in a single examine of rivals in an Ironman triathlon, there have been no vital variations between those that skilled muscle cramps and people who didn’t in blood electrolyte concentrations or physique weight modifications (an indicator of dehydration). The event of EAMC was associated to sooner race occasions and a historical past of cramping. Different research in a laboratory setting present that muscle cramps nonetheless happen even when electrolyte steadiness and fluid substitute is maintained. These findings and different analysis led to the event of an alternate idea of the reason for muscle cramps throughout train.
Understanding the reason for EAMC requires a short primer in muscle physiology. Muscle contraction happens when nerves, from the spinal twine, referred to as motor neurons, stimulate the muscle mass to shorten and produce drive. The drive manufacturing by the muscle is managed by a number of receptors that both stimulate or inhibit the muscle. One in all these, the muscle spindle, responds to stretch and causes muscle excitation. One other, the Golgi tendon organ (GTO), inhibits muscle activation and causes leisure. Working collectively, the muscle spindle and GTO regulate drive manufacturing throughout train.
Simply as repeated muscle contraction over time can result in muscle fatigue, the sample of the motor neurons stimulating the muscle can be altered throughout extended, intense train. This causes an extreme stimulation of the muscle spindle and decreased activation of the GTO, leading to uncontrolled muscle contraction – a cramp. This additionally explains why stretching is an efficient remedy for muscle cramps. By participating the GTO, the muscle relaxes and the cramp is finally relieved.
The prevention of muscle cramps is clearly of nice curiosity, particularly for athletes who’re susceptible to develop them. On condition that muscle fatigue is a situation underlying most cramps, sufficient coaching and conditioning to extend endurance is necessary. There are a selection of in style preventive methods, together with rising fluid and electrolyte consumption, consuming particular meals and drinks like pickle juice and bananas previous to train, and taking substances like quinine. Nonetheless, experimental proof for these methods to scale back EAMC is missing and their effectiveness is primarily based on anecdotal studies.
For now, one of the best ways to forestall muscle cramps is to organize your self by means of coaching and vitamin for each the environmental circumstances and train itself. And in case you get a muscle cramp throughout train, speedy stretching is one of the best ways to alleviate it.