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Why Do Your Muscles Cramp When You Run

It’s a runner’s worst nightmare: you’re running along and suddenly your calf seizes or you’re crippled with a muscle cramp. It’s the most mystifying of running problems. Nearly everyone has experienced muscle cramps; a painful, involuntary and sustained contraction of one or more muscles that can lead to the abrupt cessation of your physical activity.

You may experience a lingering soreness, reduction in normal muscle function and even signs and symptoms of muscle damage.

Likely Causes

Cramps can be caused by overexertion, dehydration, fatigue and inadequate training, leading to altered communication from the nerves to the leg muscles. During longer runs, body temperature increases, which causes sweating. This in turn causes a loss of electrolytes, especially salt. Another cause is reduced blood volume, it is hypothesized that as body heat increases over the course of a long run, the blood volume decreases. This taxes the muscles and can lead to cramping. The most common site for cramps in runners are abdominal stitches, calves, hamstring, quadriceps and bottom of the feet.

Risk factors for muscle cramp:

The exact cause of muscle cramp is not known, but risk factors may include:

  • Tight and inflexible muscles
  • Poor physical condition /Inadequate diet
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Physical overexertion
  • Physical exertion of cold muscles
  • Muscle injury/ Muscle fatigue
  • Excessive perspiration/ Dehydration
  • Reduced blood supply (ischaemia)
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes for lengthy periods

Treatment at Aktivhealth

  • Specialists at AktivHealth perform an elaborate functional assessment
  • Activity modification/Nutritional advice, Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
  • Exercise program to stretch, self-treat and improve proprioception, balance and strength
  • Joint mobilization /Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
  • Dry needling /acupuncture
  • Taping/Orthotic/insole advice
Ms Bushra Ansari
Written by : Ms Bushra Ansari Physiotherapist, AktivHealth

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