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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Advice sought about post-exercise muscle cramp

"I enjoy hillwalking and a few months ago did the most arduous walk yet. Next day my thighs were tight for a day and next day fine.

However on this second day a knot started in my right calf and progressed to almost crippling status and remained for 3-4 weeks before suddenly disapearing. Whilst there I took anti inflam , asprin and ibufrofen gels without much relief.

I went on almost as hard a walk 3 weeks ago and although filled with trepidation, nothing untoward occurred. I was on holiday this week and played a round of golf and carried my bag. Now 2 days later the cramp has re-ocurred.

Help? Whats going on?"Gary Moller comments:
This 41 year old male appears to be in reasonable shape; but definitely overdid things by doing a hike that appears to have been partially unplanned, turning into a 16 mile hike over and around a couple of mountain peaks. It is understandable that he suffered a quite severe calf strain/cramp that has not resolved.

It may never completely resolve unless dealt with properly.

Here are some observations and advice:

Should one take anti-inflammatories?
In most instances, the answer is "No!"This is because anti-inflammatories may interfere with the processes that lay down healthy collagen scar tissue. If this process is interfered with, the resultant healing may be weak and prone to further injury. Inflammation is healthy: it is the body's mechanism for bringing blood, nutrients and other resources to the injury site. It makes no sense to suppress this mechanism with drugs. These drugs can also interfere with digestion and therefore your nutritional status. While it may have the injured limb back in action sooner (this is questionable anyway) this may be a fool's gain.

The only "anti-inflammatories" that might help are natural ones. Kordel's MSM is one as are Omega oils like fish oil, flaxseed oil and olive oil. Evening Primrose oil is very beneficial. These enhance the healing process rather than interfere with them.

Re-mineralise the body
I doubt there is a 40+ year old male or female who leads an active and stressful life that is not deficient in minerals, principally magnesium. Exhausting exercise chews through magnesium and may result in disabling muscle cramps and failure to recover. In conjunction with the minerals is the need for rich supplies of the B group of vitamins.

So, my advice is to top up with a magnesium supplement and a B group supplement. You can also add a lengthy soak in an Epsom Salts bath which relaxes the muscles while supplying sulphur and magnesium through the skin.

Minerals can be obtained from a bone broth that is consumed daily and this is additional to a course of magnesium supplementation.

Take the guessswork out of supplementation and improve your health by ordering a hair tissue mineral analysis. Although $225 it is well worth the cost.

Massage the injured limb
It is highly likely, if not inevitable that there are still painful knots within the calf muscle that was injured. The uninjured limb may be similarly affected but to a lesser degree. As long as these knots remain there will be ongoing pain and limitations on ability to exert oneself. The risk of further injury is great and rest alone is never the solution. Deep tissue massage is the solution but only commence this 2-3 weeks after the dietary measures have had time to kick in.

Deep tissue massage causes damage to the unhealthy tissue that forms the knot within the muscle. The damage is in carefully controlled doses, stimulating the body's natural healing processes to lay down new healthy tissue to replace that unhealthy tissue. It is painful but highly effective - but only if your nutritional status is healthy.

Deep tissue massage the calf muscle to break down and soften any hard knots and injury-prone spots within the body of the calf. This requires about 30 days to have a lasting effect done every 3-4 days. Get this done by an experienced therapist. If in Wellington I can do this for you.

Do a steady buildup in fitness next time
Recovery includes a steady increase in fitness over about three months and then maintaining a high level of fitness indefinitely through consistent weekly exercise and good nutrition.

Think specificity: If your most challenging past time is hiking mountains, even if only a couple of times per year, then the bulk of your weekly fitness training should be geared towards preparing for these hikes. That means getting outside and doing a lot of walking over tracks and trails. Training in a gym on a treadmill, elliptical and lifting weights are beneficial; but should not be the principal fitness training for hiking. Hiking each week is best.

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