Causes and Prevention of Muscle Cramps after Running
Muscle spasms and cramps after running can be excruciating. Sometimes they emerge as a slight bruise on the skin, but that is under extreme conditions. Most usually, muscle spasms are muscle contractions that are involuntary in nature. If the spasm is extreme in nature, it needs to be dealt with carefully. The shortened muscle needs to be relaxed and lengthened by manually stretching it, in order to be released. Ranging from being mild to severe, muscle cramps most commonly occur in the feet, hands, abdomen, arms, the calf and the thighs.
Cause of Muscle Cramps after Running
The causes of muscle cramps due to running or any other form of physical exertion have not yet been deciphered. However, there are some plausible theories to explain these excruciating pains.Following are some of the theories applicable in this regard.
Depletion of Electrolytes and Dehydration
Scientific research suggests that for regular functioning, muscles need water and a reservoir of electrolytes. When the body is deficient in water or in electrolytes it can cause the muscles to spasms. Running can lead to dehydration and a misbalanced electrolyte count causing such to happen. However there is some discrepancy in this theory, as follow up research concluded that even those runners who had a balanced electrolyte count and were sufficiently hydrated could also experience muscle cramps.
This theory explaining muscle cramps after running states that muscle functioning is basically dependent on the reflexes that are prompted by activity pertaining to the brain and the spinal cord. There are certain reflexes that lead to contraction of muscles, whereas some prevent over-contraction of muscles. The muscle reflex theory suggests that muscle cramps after running occur because of a decrease in preventing over-contraction reflex and an increase in the contraction reflex.
Altered Neuromuscular Control
Altered neuromuscular control has to do with muscle fatigue. An altered neuromuscular control results in a disruption of muscle control and of muscle coordination. The theory suggests that running can lead to an altered neuromuscular control, which can ultimately translate into muscle spasms and cramps.
Preventing Muscle Cramps
Since the causes of muscle cramps after running are not so discernible, treatment and prevention is still shaky. However, there are certain tips widely recommended by athletes and experts that can help in preventing muscle cramps from running to quite a degree. Some of those include:
- Stretching on a regular basis after every run
- Performing warm up exercises before a run
- Stretch the calf muscle to prevent muscle cramps in the lower leg region
- Stretch the quadriceps muscles in order to prevent cramps in the front thigh region
- Stretch the hamstring muscles to prevent spasms in the back thigh region
- Avoid muscle fatigue and improve fitness levels