Most of us have had cramps one time or another, especially leg-cramps. But why do we get cramps?
No one really knows what causes cramps, but they are working on it. Until then, there are a number of theories on why they occur.
The muscles do not get enough oxygen.
When muscles do not get enough oxygen, the muscle cells get drained of potassium. Potassium is important for communication between the muscle and the brain.
Imbalance in electrolyte concentration. (Sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride)
The electrolytes are included in the electrical signal process that causes muscles to contract and relax. So if there is an imbalance in the electrolyte concentration, it causes the muscles to contract and not to relax again afterwards.
Imbalance in the electrolyte concentration can be caused by, for example, getting dehydrated during a long exercise or training session in hot environments.
So the intake of electrolytes (sports drink) is a good idea when exercising for over an hour, or in hot environments.
Iron binds oxygen as a reserve for extreme muscular activity.
Folic acid deficiency.
Folic acid belongs to the group of B vitamins.
Folic acid is needed for the reaction of a number of amino acid and is necessary for the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.
Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D regulates calcium levels in the blood. If calcium concentration is too low it can, for example, cause muscle cramps.
At the moment research concentrates on the theory of tired muscles.
A study by researchers at the University of Cape Town shows that spasm can occur in a tired muscle.
A muscle has two modes, tense or relaxed, and when a muscle is tired but is still working, it can not relax and goes into spasm. The study also shows that it is usually the muscle you use most that goes into spasm and often muscles that cross over two limbs.
So what is the treatment for muscle cramps?
Here are some simple tips that can prevent cramps:
• Warm up well before training and competition
• Ensure adequate recovery (resting of the muscles), especially after hard training
• Avoid dehydration: Check your fluid balance in warm weather or when you are sweating a lot. When training for more than an hour or when doing extreme endurance activities such as marathons and triathlons, you can drink sports drinks and maybe take some salt tablets.
• Avoid tight clothing and shoes
• Start slowly at the start of the season, when you begin a new exercise program, or when you start a new activity.
• Be careful at the end of a high workout. Fatigued muscles need more time to adapt to the training intensity.
• Stretch yor muscles after training.
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