How to Prevent and Treat Muscle Cramps
On a scale of running injuries, muscle cramps are among the lightest and least dangerous. However, they are very annoying, quite painful, and they will cut short your training. So, you should not treat them lightly. Instead, you should learn what causes muscle cramps and what you need to do in order to prevent them.
How Do You Recognise a Muscle Cramp?
In this article we will shed some light on the causes of muscle cramps. But before we get to that, let us explain how to identify the symptoms of this annoying condition. It usually occurs after a lot of effort, most likely in the middle of a run. Your muscle will suddenly tense up and contract, without relaxing back, no matter what you do.
The pain is at a bearable level if you have a medium to high pain tolerance, but you will not be able to resume your running. While a cramp by itself can last between a few seconds and half an hour, there is a high incidence of repeated cramps which can last for a whole day.
Who Is Most Exposed to Muscle Cramps?
In a short and comprehensive answer: everyone. Almost every man and woman on earth has suffered from a muscle cramp at a certain point in their lives.
However, athletes are more exposed to the risk of incurring repeated muscle cramps, due to the sustained effort they put on their muscles.
How Can You Prevent Muscle Cramps?
There is no clear and definitive guide for the complete prevention of muscle cramps. However, professional coaches and physiotherapists have made a series of observations and are in the position to make a few helpful recommendations to help both professional and amateur runners mitigate the occurrence of muscle cramps.
Muscle cramps are associated with the loss of electrolytes through sweating. These substances (sodium, potassium) facilitate the flexibility and proper functioning of muscles. This is why you should always hydrate properly before, during and after a race, preferably using sports drinks. These drinks (do not mistake them with energy drinks!) have the double role of keeping you hydrated and replacing the electrolytes which you lose through sweating.
Muscles are used to the moderate effort of walking. You needn’t do anything special when you wake up in the morning before you start going about your business. However, things are quite different when you are running and the muscles are subject to great effort. If they are unprepared for this effort by failing to warm them up and progressively increase the blood flow into them, cramps may set in as a response to the sudden burst in effort.
- Proper Intake of Vitamins
Feeding your body with all the vitamins it needs is critical for a healthy life. If you are an active person, or a professional athlete, it is even more important to keep your body well supplied with vitamins, especially those in the B spectrum.
Muscle cramps are often associated with a deficiency in B1, B5 and B6 vitamins. If you have a balanced diet and still lack them, then you should take some vitamins supplements from natural and trusted sources.
Treatment of Muscle Cramps
- Slow Down to Regular Walking
If you experience a muscle cramp while running, do not stop moving completely. Instead, slow down to a regular walking pace, and keep walking until your muscles relax. You may stop from time to time and apply light massage to the affected area.
- Hot Soaking
As soon as you get home after suffering muscle cramps, relax with a hot bath with bathing salts. Hot soaking helps your muscles relax and you will get rid of the cramps in no time.
Light stretching exercises are proven to relax muscles and help them become more flexible and responsive to effort. Thus, you will get rid of your existing cramp and help prevent future ones.