By Nadine Currie Jackson
Strained to the limit, muscles are prone to cramps.
Pain is ... well, a pain. But it comes with the territory for all of us who train or play hard. It's part of athletic performance and pushing ourselves to be our best. The trick is to know when to heed pain's warning and when to persist.
It's all right to push through some kinds of pain, for instance the muscle fatigue we feel at the end of a race or workout.
But other kinds of pain demand — and require — our attention. Examples include chest pain, severe abdominal pain or the subject of this tip, muscle cramps.
Cramps are sudden involuntary contractions of our muscles. They are often so powerful that they bring us to our knees. Typically, they happen when we are pushing ourselves beyond our normal limits. But sometimes, they can happen while we sleep. (These are called nocturnal cramps.) If you've never had a muscle cramp, you're either lucky or not working hard enough.
Various things can trigger cramps, including:
Here's what to do when you get a cramp:
If the cramp persists or if you have frequent cramps, see a doctor. He or she can show you exercises to release cramps and can rule out any serious medical conditions.
Whatever you do, don't ignore muscle cramps. Trying to push past them can lead to torn muscles or worse.
Jan. 15, 2010
Nadine Currie Jackson is a clinical massage therapist and researcher and educator at the college and university level. She has helped a wide variety of athletes over her career. Nadine was a short track speed skater and won several medals at national and North American events and is now hopelessly obsessed with inline speed skating. She is a member of the k2/Asphalt Beach racing team.
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