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  • Why Do Muscle Cramps Happen?

    What is a cramp?

    Muscle cramps happen to a lot of people. The pain that they cause can range from annoying to excruciating. Muscle cramps are caused by several things, including:

    • Poor blood circulation in your legs
    • Working calf muscles too hard while exercising
    • Not stretching enough
    • Being active in hot temperatures
    • Muscle fatigue
    • Dehydration
    • Magnesium and/or potassium deficiency
    • A problem such as a spinal cord injury or pinched nerve in your neck

    Muscles work in pairs. This is why most training programs revolve around equalizing strength throughout the body. When one of the two muscles in the pair flexes, the other relaxes to prevent it from working against the flexing muscle. In athletic events or difficult tasks, one of these two muscles may be flexed for a long period of time and that is what may cause cramps and spasms. Here are a few of the most common muscle pairings:

    1. Biceps – Triceps
    2. Deltoids – Latissimus Dorsi
    3. Pectoralis Major – Trapezius/Rhomboids
    4. Quadriceps – Hamstrings
    5. Hip Adductor – Gluteus Medius
    6. Tibialis Anterior – Gastrocnemius (Pictured to the right)
    7. Forearm Flexors – Forearm Extensors*

    What to do now that I have a cramp?

    A calf cramp is the most common and one of the more painful muscle cramps to have. The calf cramp involves the Tibialis Anterior (shin) and the Gastrocnemius (calf). The Gastrocnemius flexes and inhibits ankle movement while the Tibialis Anterior relaxes. If this happens to you, here is one way to help relieve the cramp.

    1. Apply light resistance to top of your foot, and pull your toes towards your face.

    2. Relax and allow the foot to return to the neutral position and the repeat for a minimum of 10 repetitions.

    3. Once the cramp seems to be decreasing, stretch your calf with a 30 – 60 sec hold.

    If you can have someone else apply the light resistance to your foot, that can make it easier to relax your calf and focus on the stretching.

    Ask your physical therapist to explain how your muscles works and how the muscle pairings fit together. If there is something wrong with a certain muscle, there is a good chance that it is caused or at least impacted by an imbalance or issue with a different muscle. Know your body and ask your PT to make sure your body is well-balanced and you can stay in the game.


    Info originally from www.news.meyerpt.com


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