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Preventing muscle cramps

Many people had experienced severe leg contractions at some point in their lives. The pain may be too intense to awaken one from sleep.

Scientists had long believed that cramping is caused by dehydration, imbalance of electrolytes, lactic acid build up, and low energy levels of the body. However, recent studies show other mechanisms why this happens.

Experts now suggest that cramps happen when the normal inhibitory mechanism of the central nervous system does not function well due to CNS fatigue or too much stimulation of the involved skeletal muscle. In this case, the muscle becomes overly excited as a result of the loss of the inhibitory function from the spinal cord-muscle reflex arc.

Several factors contribute to the problem such as advancing age, abnormal posture, increasing weight, prolonged sitting, and wearing tight shoes.

During an acute attack, the involved muscle should be stretched until muscle contraction subsides. If cramping happens before exercise, it should be withheld for an hour to rest the reflex arc.

Stretching the muscles for five to ten minutes before and after exercise will prevent cramps. As well, proper evaluation of exercise techniques, avoidance of running uphill, and wearing properly fitted shoes will aid in preventing cramps.

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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