What can prevent muscle cramps associated with exercise?
Exercise-induced muscle cramps are those that occur during or immediately
after exercise. As is typical of all cramps, they are painful, spasmodic
and involuntary contractions, and they can range in severity from mild to
extreme. Some individuals are more susceptible to exercise-induced muscle
cramps than others. Interestingly, males are more prone to these cramps
The two most popular theories as to the cause of these cramps have been
dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance. But the strongest scientific
evidence shows a link between them and the way in which the body responds
to neuromuscular fatigue. This may explain why the best way to treat
exercise induced muscle cramps is with stretching. (Oddly enough, voluntary
hyperventilation has also been shown to be effective.) For preventing these
cramps, a small study showed that Kinesio Taping is an effective means.
Interestingly, little or no evidence supports any other strategies for
cramp prevention or relief, including massage, use of compression garments,
or ingestion of salt tablets, magnesium or pickle juice.
Nelson, N.L., & Churilla, J.R. 2016. A narrative review of
exercise-associated muscle cramps: Factors that contribute to neuromuscular
fatigue and management implications. Muscle & Nerve, 54 (2),
Matt Brzycki ,
is the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Fitness at Princeton University. He has more than 30 years of experience at the collegiate level and has authored, co-authored and edited 17 books.