Sunday, 8 May 2016

Exercise-associated Muscle Cramps

Exercise-associated muscle cramps commonly occur during or shortly after exercise. Athletes are more susceptible to muscle cramps up to 8 hours following exercise in a cramp prone state. Isolated exercise-associated muscle cramps involved continuous contraction and shortening of a single multi joint muscle such as calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings. Generalised exercise-associated muscle cramps may involve multiple and bilateral muscles. Typical symptoms of exercise-associated muscle cramps include acute pain, stiffness, visible bulging or knotting of the muscle and possible muscle soreness that can last up to several days. Other causes to skeletal muscle cramps may be due to metabolic, neurologic or endocrine pathology.

There are two theories for the cause of exercise-associated muscle cramps, the dehydration-electrolyte theory and the neuromuscular theory. Maintaining hydration and adequate electrolyte levels is beneficial to alleviate the symptoms of exercise-associated muscle cramps. There are recommendations that adding 0.3-0.7 g/L of salt or higher amounts of sodium (3.0-6.0 g/L) to their drinks based on the frequency of muscle cramps. A volume of fluid loss which is less than 2% of body weight reduction is recommended to maintain proper hydration in athletes. Monitoring the body weight of the athlete helps to ensure sufficient fluid replacement.

Stretching, quinine and beta-blockers are shown to be effective in alleviating muscle cramps. Moderate stretching of the affected muscle is most commonly used to relax the muscle. Exercises that improve the neuromuscular system such as plyometric exercise and endurance training may be beneficial to prevent exercise-associated muscle cramps by delaying neuromuscular fatigue.

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