Muscle cramps are acute involuntary muscle contractions that generally last for several minutes. As many of you know, they can be very uncomfortable. It has been thought that muscle fatigue, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are involved. And to get rid of a cramp once it starts, it has been suggested that one stretch the cramping muscle.
A recent New York Times article reports on new research regarding muscle cramping. New studies have shown that muscle fatigue probably is the casue, and drinking pickle juice (or vinegar) can help to shortern thier duration (along with stretching).
The article states that certain mechanisms within muscles have been found to start misfiring when a muscle is extremely tired. And pickle juice may help alleviate these cramps, says one of the scientists (Dr. Miller) cited in this article, “by countermanding the malfunction. Something in the acidic juice, … , may be lighting up specialized nervous-system receptors in the throat or stomach, he says, which, in turn, send out nerve signals that somehow disrupt the reflex melee in the muscles. Dr. Miller suspects that ultimately, it’s the vinegar in the pickle juice that activates the receptors.”
Although it is only speculation, it gives us an idea of how to reduce the chances of their occurrence, as well as what to do once they start, if they do occur. They concludes that if muscle fatigue is the cause, “then training properly, building up your mileage slowly and perhaps adding strength training that focuses specifically on muscles that have cramped in the past, may help. In the meantime, if your calf or other muscle suddenly, painfully catches, “try stretching it,” Dr. Miller says. Doing so has been found in laboratory studies to significantly shorten the duration of a muscle cramp, most likely by shaking up and resetting the misfiring muscle and nerve reflexes. And perhaps, if you can stomach the idea, pack a few ounces of pickle juice on your next training session.”
Food for thought as we start the summer – hopefully with no (or less) muscle cramping.