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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Avoiding Muscle Cramps

(Phys, August 1999) - A cramp is an involuntary, violent, and painful spasm of a muscle. Especially performing intense exercise, men and women are likely to experience cramps mostly in the calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and small muscles of the feet and hands.
Clarifying the type of cramp provides the first clue to the underlying physiological causes and subsequent treatment. A true cramp, or "charley horse," is most common. These cramps are most frequent in people with well-developed muscles. Heat cramps develop when a person performs intense muscular work in a hot environment and perspires profusely. During heat exposure, electrolytes (SODIUM, POTASSIUM, CHLORIDE, and other MINERALS) are lost in perspiration. Muscle pain and spasms may occur, especially in the calves, if these electrolytes are not replaced. Intermittent, painful spasms of the muscles, called tetany, are usually attributed to low CALCIUM levels, but low potassium levels have also produced tetany-like symptoms in individuals. Low blood MAGNESIUM levels have also resulted in tremors and seizures.
Until the 1950s cramps were commonly thought to be psychosomatic, occurring primarily in people who were tense, anxious, and insecure, and who fought feelings of anger and guilt. Today, with these wives' tales behind us, researchers suspect that cramps result from overactivity of the nerves sending messages to specific muscle groups. In addition, changes in the fluid outside the cells, such as occurs in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, or alteration of intracellular metabolites, such as enzymes, can initiate and terminate muscle cramps.
General recommendations for preventing muscle cramps include drinking plenty of water and fluids, consuming a high-CARBOHYDRATE, NUTRIENT-dense diet, maintaining optimal MINERAL and ELECTROLYTE intake, and frequently and gently stretching the troublesome muscles and/or warming up and cooling down before and after exercise.

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