AF Q+A: What can prevent muscle cramps associated with exercise? 

New findings on weight gain, concurrent training and muscle cramps.

by Matt Brzycki

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 than females.

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.

REFERENCE:

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), 177-85.

Meet our experts

AFM-Author-Brzycki 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.

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