Although many myths persist online and throughout gyms and training centers, several studies help shed light on these questions. If you suffer from frequent cramps, it’s important to know what may be causing them and when you are most at risk. This will help you plan an effective treatment regimen that allows you to perform at your best.
In this week’s blog we will discuss the first two of four factors that help predict when muscle cramps will strike.
Why Do Some People Tend to Cramp More Than Others?
We have already written multiple posts about the popular theories you will read about online: dehydration, electrolyte loss and mineral imbalance. In a nutshell, these explanations were based on observation and anecdotal evidence, rather than science. If you cramp often, you’ve probably already tried to drink more water and eat bananas before your workout, with little success. In actuality, muscle cramps may be less your fault that you thought.
Many scientists and researchers now believe that genetics may be at least partially responsible. Doctors Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas, creators of the Science of Sport website and authors of Runner’s World the Runner’s Body write, “there is a strong likelihood that cramping has a genetic component, in that some runners are predisposed to cramping.”
A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research came to a similar conclusion. The researchers studied 103 male rugby players, of which 52 experienced muscle cramps. There were two factors that best predicted muscle cramps. The first was age, which we will get to next. The second was a history of muscle cramps. The researchers concluded that those athletes who have experienced cramps in the past are most likely to do so in the future, which suggests a predisposition.
How Does Age Affect Muscle Cramps?
As we mentioned, the study of rugby players found that age was the most important determining factor in predicting muscle cramps. A study published in the British Medical Journal also supports this claim. In the study of more than 233 adults, researchers found that ⅓ of the participants over age 60 experienced muscle cramps within the past 2 months, compared to ½ of the patients over age 80. Although researchers are not sure why age plays a factor, some believe that it it partly because nerve pathways begin to deteriorate. Regardless, it is important to understand that your risk of developing muscle cramps increases with age.
In the next installment, we will look at two more factors: overexertion and body size.