It doesn’t matter if you’re lying in bed in the middle of the night, or if you’re in the 90th minute of a football match – there’s not really a pain that can compare to cramp. Whatever your age, gender, or even fitness level, you’re likely to suffer with cramps at some point, if you haven’t already.

With technology being the way it is today, you’d probably expect somebody to know the cause of cramping, even if we aren’t exactly sure about how to prevent it. Well in fact we really don’t know too much – of course there are theories, but because everybody gets cramp it’s hard to pinpoint the actual cause.

At least we know what is happening though. Cramping occurs when are muscles contract suddenly, or when they over-shorten. So okay, we don’t know exactly why this happens, but what ideas are out there about it?

  • The first major theory related to dehydration, and more specifically the loss of minerals. These minerals include electrolytes, and in particular sodium. Salt deficiencies have widely been considered a possible cause of cramping.
  • The main other theory is based on over training and fatigue. It’s suggested that the strain on our muscles can cause the spasm effect that you feel when they begin to cramp.

And while both of these seem perfectly reasonable explanations, despite all our computers and gadgets, the true cause still isn’t known.

Okay, so how about treatment? Surely we can’t treat something if we don’t know what causes it. Well that isn’t strictly true – we don’t know exactly what causes cancer but we have certain ways in which we can treat that.

The most basic form of treatment is stretching. As you will have been told ever since that first P.E. lesson your muscles are like Plasticine, and if they aren’t warmed up they may just snap. You don’t need me to tell you, but make sure you stretch properly. And if you particularly suffer with cramping it might just help to reduce the pain.

Sports massages and physiotherapy have also been identified as a possible treatment – the theory being that a proper rub down will prevent the muscles contracting suddenly and going into spasm.

However the treatment that is generally considered to be the most effective is the use in of sport drinks. These possess the electrolytes (in particular sodium) that are lost during exercise and may cause cramping.

In fact, in the military they’re often instructed to put salt on their food after training exercises to help reduce the effects of cramping.

You can even just make yourself a salt water drink – and it doesn’t have to be as horrible as it might sound. We’re only talking about half a teaspoon in about a pint of water, and by the time you put squash in it, you can’t even tell there is salt in it.

So if you suffer badly with cramps, just try some of these suggestions. But just remember – we don’t really know what works, but if it helps you, then don’t be afraid to do it.

Ollie Lawrence
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