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Treating Muscle Cramps

Submitted by on May 9, 2010 – 12:19 pmNo Comment

Here’s a common injury commonly seen in post-event sports massage, and one I’m commonly asked about…the dreaded muscle cramp.

Traditionally, the treatment for a muscle cramp was to apply a stretch to the muscle.  However, this is inefficient and potentially dangerous.  It is inefficient in that it is difficult to apply enough force to overcome a strongly contracting muscle.  Dangerous, because the force required to stretch a cramping muscle can cause damage to the muscle fibers!

A far easier way is to use a technique called reciprocal inhibition.  This involves the athlete to contract the muscles that are antagonistic (opposite) to the cramping muscles.  For example, for a calf cramp (the ankle plantarflexors), instruct the client to strongly dorsiflex their foot (“pull your toes to your nose”).  This will activate the tibialis anterior and its assisting muscles, that triggers the nervous system to inhibit the contraction of the cramping muscle.  You can provide some manual resistance to the dorsiflexion to help strengthen the inhibitory response.

Once the cramp or spasm has stopped, you can then utilize compression, petrissage and stretching to help the muscle fully return to its resting state.


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