Why Sodium and Water Intake May not Reduce Muscle Cramps

Vastus medialis, or the "tear drop" muscle, is shown in red. 

Vastus medialis, or the "tear drop" muscle, is shown in red. 

A friend, who regularly runs several miles each week, experienced intense cramping along the "tear-drop" shaped muscle on the front of her thigh (the Vastus Medialis, a quadricep muscle).  She asked me for ways to lessen the chance of cramps recurring.  She mentioned increasing her waster and sodium intake before her runs and after them; unfortunately, this didn't prevent cramping. 

We talked about the quadriceps and how they enable or support certain movements (e.g., primarily extending and stabilizing the knee with one quadricep, Rectus femoris, playing a role in movements at the hip joint).  We also reviewed ways to stretch the quads. 

Later, her question led me to search for more evidence supporting a specific approach to avoiding muscle cramps.  In the journal, Sports Medicine - Open, I found a study comparing ultra marathoners (i.e., 161 km race runners) who experienced muscle cramps to those who did not. 

muscle cramps.jpeg

The study considered water and sodium intake.  The results showed those with a history of muscle cramps were the ones who experienced muscle cramps during the race.  Although their water and sodium intake may have been comparable to those who did not experience cramps, the muscle cramps reoccured in persons who had previously experienced cramps.  

Sports Medicine - Open also has other research supporting this conclusion for those participating in ultra marathons which may take up to 30 hours to complete (e.g., "Sodium Intake During an Ultramarathon Does Not Prevent Muscle Cramping, Dehydration, Hyponatremia, or Nausea").  

An article, "Muscle Cramps and Diuretic Therapy," in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension focuses on muscle cramps which commonly occur in medical patients and particularly the elderly.  The article notes sometimes an electrolyte imbalance cannot be directly associated with cramps.  In these instances, stretching is recommended. 

Although it may not help with muscle cramps, I aim to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily because it helps on other physiological levels.  And I'm a big proponent of stretching, especially when you're asking your body to cover several miles each week.  I found Coach E's blog post,  "The Only 3 Quadricep Stretches You Need for Flexible Quads" to be very informative and effective.  

The stretches combined with increased awareness of how we use our quads may help prevent or reduce muscle cramps. 


Thumbnail image courtesy of Francesco Gallarotti

Source: https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.c...

Resist a Sedentary Lifestyle: Movement is Essential to Life

When temperatures soared above 80 degrees in the middle of April, the warm air prompted me to begin transitioning from heavy winter clothing to a Spring “capsule” wardrobe; the much needed essentials, or core, garments.   

Similar to having a wardrobe of essentials garments, human beings must be able to carry out essential or core functions to survive.  These essentials are: to be able to maintain boundaries, create movement, be responsive, digest, metabolize, excrete, reproduce and grow. Understanding each of these functions is essential, let's consider the ability to move. 

Most people have the ability to move in response to stimuli from internal or external forces.  We use our muscles which connect to bones to move our bodies from one location to another. We use movement to lift a cup of water to take a sip.  Movement is useful in chewing food to begin the digestion process which fuels our metabolism and promotes growth.  When we're unable to move, someone or something steps in to assist; such as a caregiver  or a mechanical device is used (e.g., a wheelchair, a prosthetic, braces ). 

Although intentional physical exercise is movement, sometimes movement does not require strenuous efforts. Our chests rise and fall as our lungs take in air and exhale; this sometimes imperceptible movement impacts our cardiovascular system as our capillaries respond to the air inhaled. Movement at the molecular level is simply amazing; as it happens automatically.  

Physical movement also aids in chemical and muscular changes in the body.  Moving your muscles helps blood circulate through your body and deliver nutrients.  


In 2014, the Los  Angelos Times printed an article, "Sitting is the New Smoking- 7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing You," outlining the key points from an interview with Dr. James Levine, who at the time was the director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.  He had completed research focused specifically on sitting anywhere for long periods of time.  He found prolonged sitting increased the risk of developing a variety of cancers and heart disease.  

The article continues to cite other research which underlines the irreversible effects of prolonged sitting.  The research shows if you do moderate or strenuous activity for a few hours during the week, you won't reduce the negative effects of sitting for an extended amount of time.  

The reason you can't remove the negative effects is related to your body being frozen or stalled. While seated, you use very few muscle movements to keep your body seated on a stable surface.  Because you're not moving, you are not stimulating other processes related to your metabolism (remember your metabolism is one of the core "pieces;" it is also essential to life.  

While other research points to fidgeting as being enough additional movement to stimulate metabolism, to me, the best way to avoid negative effects is to reduce the amount  of time spent sitting while working at a computer, watching a television screen, driving a vehicle, etc.  

As you think about the conveniences being offered through numerous apps and consumer services, remember to resist the sedentary lifestyles being promoted.   Try to keep movement a part of your daily regimen by choosing to walk to your co-worker's office, when the location permits, instead of sending an email or calling.  Choose to walk to the other side of the room and turn off the lights instead of asking a smart device to switch them off.  Find ways to incorporate more reasons to stand and step away from your chair, for example, consider a standing desk or placing your laptop on a higher surface so it is easier to use while standing.

For those who must sit for long hours before taking a break, try some of these exercises explained in this video by Dolvett Quince, The Biggest Loser Trainer, or this SELF sponsored video which can be used to create a ten minute workout at your desk. The exercises shown in the videos help those at home or in an office setting.  

If you have to drive for long hours (e.g., Lyft or Uber drivers, soccer moms) here's a Scania driver care video with directions for the obtaining the proper seated position when driving and exercises you might want to try while the vehicle is in motion. 

Maryland Readers: The Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control is presenting "Be Active Maryland Conference" on May 23 at the University of Maryland in College Park.  The event is designed for those interested in "leading Maryland communities to a more physically active state to decrease health burdens." Free admission; follow link to register. 

Source: https://www.theactivetimes.com/sitting-new...