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Ask the Docs | Cramping

Ask the Docs
Posted January 18, 2008

  • AthletiCo Bulls' Injury Report

    Patient Question:
    I am an active person who works out about four to five times a week. I try and eat a balanced diet and drink enough water. Over the past month I have experienced an increasing amount of cramps while working out. I’ve tried drinking more water, but that is not helping. Sometimes the cramps are so severe I must discontinue activity, and they even wake me up at night. Is there anything else that I can do to prevent these cramps?

    Dr. Kathy Weber:
    Cramps are caused by the contraction or shortening of muscles. Common causes of cramps include cold weather, overexertion, illness and dehydration, or poisoning. In medical terms, cramping can be brought on by one of the five factors: inadequate oxygenation; hyperflexion; dehydration; exposure to large changes in temperature; and/or low blood salt levels. From your description I would assume you are experiencing pain from simple muscle cramps, which can be caused by any of the factors listed above. Have you recently changed your training program?

    Dr. Weber
    Dr. Weber
    Treatment Options:
    Muscle cramps are often treated by soft tissue massage on the corresponding cramped muscle. After the soft tissue massage you should be sure to stretch the muscle and apply a heat pack. Applying a heat pack will improve your blood circulation and make your muscle more flexible, while helping to relieve the immediate pain. Application of excessive heat or cold (some individuals choose to apply ice instead of heat) to sore muscles can bring on additional and more severe cramping. Also, an excessive amount of pressure placed on the cramped muscle can increase the muscles soreness.

    Other remedies include:

  • If you are suffering from an excess lactic acid (produced by lack of oxygen to the muscles) try to improve your immediate pain by rapid deep breathing.
  • If you are suffering from cramps due to lack of water or salt, try to improve your condition through drinking water or increasing salt intake, correspondingly.
  • Muscles cramps can also be prevented through eating foods high in potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, and prunes.

    If after trying these treatments your muscle cramps still exist, I recommend making an appointment to see a sports medicine physician who will be able to better diagnosis your condition through an examination and perhaps even diagnostic testing.

    For more information about Dr. Weber and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.

    The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.



    Ask the Docs | More Patient Questions

    Achilles Tendonitis
    Over the past few months, I have been experiencing pain and tightening in the back of my heel/Achilles before and after I play basketball. Last week the pain turned from dull to sharp and now it is painful even at rest. Could this be a strain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Frozen Elbow
    I read an article about a condition referred to as "frozen shoulder" and was curious if this condition can also affect the elbow. I recently had a problem with my left elbow with similar symptoms that was not a result of any injury and now have an odd formation of scar tissue. For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Foot Sprain
    I twisted my right foot last week in a pickup basketball game. When I walk on it for an extended period of time, it swells to about twice its normal size (on the top of my foot) and begins to hurt to the point that I can barely put weight on it. When I lie down at night the swelling dissipates and by the next morning is almost completely gone. What could this be and should I make an appointment to see a physician? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
    I have been experiencing pain in my knee and around my kneecap after I play basketball. I also feel this pain during my workday as I sit at my desk. What is causing this? Should I continue to workout or should I taper my activity? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Low Back Sprain
    I play basketball about three times a week and I have been experiencing pain in my lower back. The pain started last week and back spasms have kept me from my normal activities. It feels better when I rest. How long should I lay off playing? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Ankle Sprains
    I noticed in recent game reports that a few of the Bulls players have suffered from ankle injuries. This seems to be a common injury with basketball players. How can you tell the severity of a sprain? Do you have any advice for healing and preventing ankle injuries? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hamstring Pull
    A few weeks ago I injured my right leg playing basketball. Since then I have been experiencing pain in my hamstring. I'm trying to rest it, and I can ride a bike and walk, but I cannot run or play basketball. I've been doing some strengthening and stretching exercises but it still really hurts to sit or stand up after sitting for a prolonged period of time. Do you have any advice that could help along the healing process? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Partial ACL Tears
    What is your opinion regarding treatment of partial tears of the ACL? I was diagnosed 6 weeks ago with a 30% tear of the ACL, but no one seems willing to reconstruct it. I am a professional dancer and I need my knee to be 100%–without a brace. I have heard that a partial ACL tear will continue to tear under strenuous activity. Is this true? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Bicep Tendon Tear
    I am 52 years young and consider myself in good health. Lately, however, I have been experiencing a pain in the deep inner fold where my forearm and bicep meet. It really hurts whenever I do curls or other activities that put additional strain on the area. I would imagine that the pain is possibly associated with a tendon tear. What are your thoughts and what besides not exercising could help ease the pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Tibial Plateau Fracture
    Over the past few months I have been experiencing pain below my left knee while running. After a collision in my basketball game last week, I heard a “pop” and experienced a shooting pain through my knee and down my shin. My knee is now extremely swollen. My family doctor ruled out major ligament damage and has sent me to get X-rays and a MRI. What could this be? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jammed Finger
    While playing basketball this week I jammed my finger trying to catch a hot pass. The finger is now tender, swollen, and painful when I bend it. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Pointer
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my hip. Now my hip is tender and painful when I walk. Could this be serious? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Groin Strains
    I have been experiencing pain in my inner thigh. There is also some bruising, swelling, and discomfort when I play basketball and push off my right leg. How long do you think I’ll need to rest before it heals? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Ankle Sprains
    While playing basketball last week I came down wrong on my foot and I think I rolled my ankle. How can I tell if the injury is serious, and when can I return to normal physical activity? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Hip Bursitis
    While playing basketball last month I fell and landed on my hip. It didn’t seem to hurt much then, but as time has passed I have had an increasing pain at the point of my hip. Is this something that will go away on its own? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Plantar Fascia: A Common Basketball Foot Injury
    My heel bothers when I play basketball, and it really hurts when I wake up in the morning and stand up after rest. Is this some type of bruise, or is it a more serious injury? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Wrist Contusion
    While playing basketball this weekend I collided with another team member and injured my wrist on another player’s knee. My wrist is now swollen, black and blue, and tender to the touch. Could this be serious? Should I have X-rays? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Mallet Finger
    While playing basketball last week I jammed my finger on the ball. My finger is still painful and swollen, but only at the fingertip. I also have trouble straightening the tip of my finger. Do you think anything is broken? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
    When I raise my arms over my head for a rebound or reach to block a shot, I’m having pain in my shoulder. What could be causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Shin Splints
    I’m an active runner and have been experiencing pain in my shins. If I stop training, it goes away but comes back as soon as I resume my running activities. Am I suffering from shin splints? If so, what can I do to treat them other than rest? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Piriformis Syndrome
    I’m a runner, and lately I’ve been experiencing pain radiating down the back of my leg. It hurts worse when I sit or climb stairs. What is causing this? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBS)
    I’m a semi-active cyclist, more of a weekend warrior, really. I have been experiencing sharp burning pain on the outside of my left knee, and even occasionally in both knees. What is causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Basketball Injuries in the Female Athlete:
    I’ve heard that female basketball players are more frequently injured than their male counterparts. Is there any truth in that? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Aging and Basketball Injuries:
    I’m a 40-something who still enjoys playing competitive basketball. In my advancing years, should I be worried about any increased health risks from playing this demanding sport? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Stretching Before Basketball:
    I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Torn or Damaged Cartilage:
    After I play basketball, my left knee swells considerably. With ice and rest it mostly goes away, but the swelling comes right back when I play again. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    ACL Tears:
    While playing basketball last week, I felt a “pop” in my knee when planting my foot. I now have a considerable swelling and the knee feels unstable. Do I have ligament damage? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.

    Jumper’s Knee:
    When I take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or jump to grab a rebound, I often feel a sharp pain behind my kneecap. What causes this? How can it be treated? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.