OMTOM Medical Newsflash: Cramping, and how to avoid it
What are muscle cramps and what causes them?
Muscle cramps are constant, uncontrolled muscle contractions (spasms) that occur during or immediately after exercise.
They usually affect the lower limb muscles (calf, hamstring, quadriceps, groin or foot), and are most often caused by:
- muscle fatigue (running too fast at a pace or a distance that is too long – not well trained),
- individual predisposition,
- underlying injury,
- and use of certain medications may also play a role.
56km runners are at a higher risk of developing muscle cramps compared with 21km runners.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances (e.g. salt loss, magnesium loss) do not play a role in muscle cramping during running.
How common is muscle cramping in runners?
Muscle cramping is very common in endurance athletes, but about 1 in every 1010 runners who start the Two Oceans Marathon develop more serious muscle cramping that needs to be assessed and treated in the medical tent.
Tips to decrease the risk of developing muscle cramping during running
The easiest ways to avoid muscle cramping on Race Day:
- Be well trained for the race.
- Avoid running too fast (faster than your normal training pace), particularly in the earlier parts (first half) of the race.
- Make sure you have recovered fully from injuries (including muscle rehabilitation).
- Regular stretching of muscles in which you previously experienced cramping may help.
- Enquire about increased risk of cramping when your doctor prescribed any new medication.
- Slow down at the first sign of any twitching in muscles.
- Stop and stretch muscles as they start twitching and then start walking/jogging slowly if the twitching stops.
- DO NOT try to run through muscle cramping.
This newsflash was brought to you by the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon Medical Team. Please watch your Inbox for regular medical newsflashes.