Clients ask me often in the clinic what causes muscles to cramp?
There are several reasons but the 3 most common are:
Dehydration, Muscle Fatigue, and Excited Nerves.
If a muscle is lacking water it will cramp up. This is more common in the hot summer months when we are outside. We are perspiring more than usual due to the high temperatures. Make sure to drink water before and after you exercise. Caution with your coffee intake, as caffeine is a diurectic, which means it pushes water out of your system. Caffeine is also acidic, so your body tries hard to maintain a pH chemical balance inside, when we have lots of acidic intake of foods, the body’s reaction is to sacrifice your calcium in your bones to reduce your pH back to normal. Studies have shown that after 2 cups of coffee they can detect calcium in your urine. So slow down on your coffee, and make sure to replenish your water balance. Drink coffee in the morning, but limit to 2 cups maximum, and water in the afternoon. Another interesting fact from Fatigue prevention, is that when you yawn in the morning that is your body’s reflex telling you that you are dehydrated and tired, do not make the mistake of grabbing another cup of coffee, but instead down a bottle or 500ml of water right away instead.
When a muscle has been worked to fatigue and it is asked to contract again, often the muscle will not be able to perform and it is often sent into a muscle cramp response. This often occurs when we do more with our muscles then they are used to. For example you go on a holiday and walk much farer than your body is used to. Or runners will progress too fast with their volume and frequncy of running.
When we pinch a nerve in our spinal column, then nerves gets excited and then it stimulates the muscles that it is attached to and the muscle starts to cramp up. Often clients will describe this as a knot that they feel. The knot does not go away with soft tissue work, because the underlying cause is the irritated nerve root.
You can have one of these causes or all 3 contributing to your muscle cramps that you are feeling. How do we avoid the 3 causes above?
- 1Make sure to drink lots of water, especially if outside playing or working in the summer.
- 2Do not push your muscles beyond their capacity. Progress your fitness program 10% per week is a safe amount for soft tissue to accommodate the increased load.
- 3Make sure to get your spine checked if you have a muscle cramp that is not going away.
If these 3 things have been ruled out, then you should be going back to your family doctor for a medical evaluation as there are more causes of muscle cramps that relate to medical issues.
Hope this helps, keep you muscle cramp free!
On behalf of your Nose Creek Sport Physiotherapy team.