Muscle Spasms

Muscle Spasms- What are they, Why do I get them, and How can I Treat them?

Recently, I was privileged in serving on the medical team for the New York Marathon. There is nothing more inspiring than watching tens of thousands of people going above and beyond their comfort zone and reach for a goal that most people will never accomplish.

Running a great distance like that is certainly not for the weary, and there are a lot of challenges that these runners have to overcome. One of them is muscle spasms.

So, what is a muscle spasm? A muscle spasm is a contraction of the muscle. It’s involuntary, and you cannot stop it. A muscle spasm feels like a twitch or an extended cramp. Some are very painful, and they can last anywhere from a few seconds, to a few minutes.

What causes muscle spasms?

There are many causes for muscle spasms-some that you may not expect.

  1. The most known is lack of hydration. Higher temps during the NYC marathon were a big factor in more runners experiencing muscle spasms.
  2. Muscle fatigue is also a big factor in spasming. In addition, a decrease in electrolytes or B12 are big causes of muscle cramping and spasming.
  3. Many people don’t know that extended low estrogen over a long period of time can cause muscle spasms.
  4. Muscle cramps can come from decreased blood supply, which often comes from the heart, or blood clots.
  5. Lack of proper shoe gear can also cause muscle spasms. You have to have some level of cushioning, orthotics and proper shoe gear, otherwise your muscles are going to try to make up for something that the shoe gear does not make up for.

So how do you avoid muscle spasms? Do the exact reverse of everything that causes it. Here is a list of ways to avoid or treat muscle spasms:

Top 5 Ways to Avoid or Treat Muscle Spasms

  1. Keep up hydration over periods of time. Drink water, or eat watermelon.
  2. Make sure you get enough electrolytes. Gatorade, and salt are good sources.
  3. Apply heat and ice, along with massage. Normally done 15 minutes apart and slow massage.
  4. Take anti-inflammatories over time.
  5. Eat foods that decrease muscle spasms- bananas, sweet potatoes, lentils, avocados, and cherry juice. All of them restore potassium, magnesium, B12 and other B vitamins.
Hope this helps prepare you for your next marathon!

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