Cramp is an involuntary muscle contraction or spasm that can be very painful. Exercise induced cramps are most common, however cramp can be experienced in non-athletic populations and some people even get cramp at night! This post aims to describe what causes cramp, and suggest some methods of prevention.
Here’s a little lesson on muscle contractions to help you understand cramp.
Muscles are made up of bundles of fibres similar to a bunch of dry spaghetti.
Nerve endings surround and penetrate the muscle in order to deliver information from the brain to the muscle. When a muscle needs to contract, the brain sends the signal via the nerves, which then innervate the muscle.
Here’s the thing… Nerve endings can only give one of two signals to the muscle fibres it innervates: “contract” or “don’t contract”.
Usually your body is able to differentiate between the force required to pick your phone up from the force required to pick your child up, for example.
It does this not by turning up or down the strength of the muscle fibre contractions, but by increasing or decreasing the number of nerve endings that fire, which in turn increases the number of muscle fibres recruited for the task.
Picking up your phone recruits fewer muscle fibres than picking up your child.
SO a cramp occurs when many many muscle fibres are constantly stimulated by inappropriate nerve signals.
And to stop cramp, we need to interrupt or inhibit these signals.
You can try gentle passive stretching (20-30 secs or until cramp subsides) or heat (wrapped in a damp towel to protect skin).
Prevention is better than cure!
- Ensure that you have warmed up thoroughly using dynamic stretches, sport specific drills, and gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation
- Respect your prehab routine. Prehab targets your muscle imbalances and vulnerabilities. This can help to “tone down” muscles that are prone to over excitation.
- Check that your footwear is appropriate and in good condition.
- Follow nutritional guidelines and ensure you have good quality recovery time.
If you are prone to cramp, sports massage can help. Your therapist can assess your body and identify muscles that are overworking. These muscles are often more prone to cramping. There are a variety of techniques that your therapist may use to address these. One that may be particularly effective is muscle energy technique, which can reset neuromuscular communication.
To book, call or text 07858 107595 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Some proposed risk factors for cramp include:
– Low electrolyte consumption
– Creatine consumption
– Poor posture
– A history of cramp and/or low back pain
Passively stretch your calves.
1. Sit comfortably on a chair with your hips and knees at a 90 degree angle.
2. Place one ankle on the other knee.
3. Holding your foot in your hands, keep your ankle relaxed and use your hands to push your toes towards your knee until you feel a gentle stretch on the calf muscles.