How to Prevent Cramping
I am an active person who works out about four to five times a week. I try and eat a balanced diet and drink enough water. Over the past month I have experienced an increasing amount of cramps while working out. I've tried drinking more water, but that is not helping. Sometimes the cramps are so severe I must discontinue activity, and they even wake me up at night. Is there anything else that I can do to prevent these cramps?
Dr. Kathleen Weber:
Cramps are caused by the contraction or shortening of muscles. Common causes of cramps include cold weather, overexertion, illness and dehydration, or poisoning. In medical terms, cramping can be brought on by one of the five factors: inadequate oxygenation; hyperflexion; dehydration; exposure to large changes in temperature; and/or low blood salt levels. From your description I would assume you are experiencing pain from simple muscle cramps, which can be caused by any of the factors listed above. Have you recently changed your training program?
Muscle cramps are often treated by soft tissue massage on the corresponding cramped muscle. After the soft tissue massage you should be sure to stretch the muscle and apply a heat pack. Applying a heat pack will improve your blood circulation and make your muscle more flexible, while helping to relieve the immediate pain. Application of excessive heat or cold (some individuals choose to apply ice instead of heat) to sore muscles can bring on additional and more severe cramping. Also, an excessive amount of pressure placed on the cramped muscle can increase the muscles soreness.
Other remedies include:
- If you are suffering from an excess lactic acid (produced by lack of oxygen to the muscles) try to improve your immediate pain by rapid deep breathing.
- If you are suffering from cramps due to lack of water or salt, try to improve your condition through drinking water or increasing salt intake, correspondingly.
- Muscle cramps can also be prevented through eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, and prunes.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the professional advice of your physician, nor to be a complete description of every aspect of a condition, nor a complete list of possible side effects of any medication. Decisions concerning your treatment should be based on your own health care provider's evaluation of your personal health history and current condition. Consult your physician before following any of the suggestions on this Web site. All articles on this Web site represent the personal opinions of the individual authors and should not be construed as official policy of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.