Have You Ever Suffered from a Charley Horse?

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Have you ever flexed your foot the wrong way and experienced the excruciating pain of your calf cramping? Or how about having to stop an exercise because of a muscle cramp? Muscle cramps are painful and they can occur at the most random times, robbing you of your ability to do anything. But why does this happen?

A muscle cramp is an involuntary muscle contraction that causes a lack of mobility and above all, pain.

The majority of us experience muscle cramps in the legs and calf regions.

Unfortunately, it isn’t clear as to why we experience muscle cramps, but there are several theories. One major factor is fatigue — as the muscles become fatigued, it can lead to a higher risk of cramping. Another theory is that dehydration and an electrolyte balance can occur during workouts.

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A recent review found a link between dehydration, salt depletion, and cramps, but could not determine that one causes the other. Furthermore, the study found no differences in hydration between those who experience muscle cramps and those who do not.

If an electrolyte imbalance was the cause, then all muscles in the body would be affected, not just the lower half, which rules out that theory too.

The review then suggests something called the altered neuromuscular control hypothesis. This suggests that the protective reflex action is disrupted, which occurs when the muscle is fatigued, thus causing cramping. Therefore, when the muscle contracts and signals are sent to the spinal cord to tell it to relax, this signal becomes inhibited and the muscle contracts longer instead of relaxing.

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Unfortunately, it isn’t well known…

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