Have you felt agonising pain when your muscles cramp up while on the training? Exercise-associated muscle cramp is common in athletes of all ages, at all levels of sport. This is especially so in a contact sport like BJJ, whereby certain positions are held over a relatively long period of time, leading to muscle fatigue and cramping. Cramp has been theorized over the years to be due to a combination of dehydration, loss of essential body minerals and neuromuscular fatigue. So how do we make sure we prevent cramping the best we can?
1) Conditioning: Firstly, we need to ensure that the training load is appropriate for competition. If our bodies are not well-conditioned enough, we will reach fatigue faster, and lose neuromuscular control sooner as well, possibly leading to cramp.
2) Hydration: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day before coming to training to ensure that there is a fluid balance in the body.
3) Mineral balance: Ensuring that we have a well-balanced diet with sufficient essential minerals such as sodium and potassium is important!
Finally, just a quick tip on what to do when a cramp occurs. In most cases, people immediately stretch out the cramping muscle as hard as they can. While this is usually effective, there is a risk of causing greater muscle injury if done too vigorously and for too long. As such, we recommend that upon onset of cramp, slow and gentle stretching should commence. The muscle cramp should reduce and disappear within minutes, if not seconds. Most importantly, try to slow down your breathing, exhale into the pain and try to relax your cramping muscle as best you can. This is the safest way to stop a cramp from getting worse. It is difficult, but it can be done!
Remember, stay safe, and enjoy your time on the mat!
Here’s to greater knowledge when it comes to affordable pain relief techniques. If you have any questions, don’t forget to visit FaMA’s very own physiotherapist, every Wednesday from 6-7pm!