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Cutting out Cramps and Stitches

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 5 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Avoiding Stitch Avoiding Cramps Workout

Everyone has experienced cramps and stitch at least once in their life. For athletes, cramp and stitch can be significantly uncomfortable, and if they occur regularly can disrupt training patterns. The severity of the two complaints can vary significantly and there are things you can do to avoid them.

What is cramp?

Cramp is a sudden, painful tightening pain that occurs most often in the leg muscles, especially the calves or thighs. It may last for a few seconds or up to several minutes. Cramp can be a sudden, singular event or may occur repeatedly. It occurs when a muscle contracts involuntarily in a sudden spasm, and remains tight.

How should you treat cramp?

Stretching is important because it may help to reduce the muscle spasms and help the muscle to relax back into its normal state. Gently massaging the muscle can also help reduce pain. Drinking water is beneficial if you are dehydrated.

What may cause cramp?

Cramps often occur when an athlete is dehydrated. (But even athletes who are well hydrated get cramps.) To avoid dehydration-associated cramps, plenty of water before, during, and after you exercise. For a healthy regular intake of water, you know if you're drinking enough liquid, if you need to urinate every 2-4 hours. Remember however, that caffeinated drinks have diuretic effects and will make you urinate more often.

Maintaining a sodium balance is important, though this does vary slightly between individuals. Many of today's sports drinks designed for athletes contain enough supplementary sodium to prevent even a heard working athlete from losing excessive amounts of sodium through perspiration.

If you are doing a heavy workout and perspiring heavily, you may lose some potassium, but are unlikely to become potassium depleted, otherwise all your muscles would be affected. If you are an athlete though, eating plenty of potassium-rich fruits and vegetables will still be beneficial.

What is stitch?

Stitch is a short stabbing pain usually felt on the side or accompanied by a stabbing pain in the shoulder joint. Sometimes you can continue to exercise and the stitch will gradually go away, but other times it may worsen, and you will have to slow down or stop altogether. Stitch usually passes within a few minutes.

How should you treat stitch?

Sometimes the stitch eases if you slow down for a while. However, the most common and easiest way to alleviate stitch is to breathe deeply and to apply slight pressure to the painful area. If the stitch is particularly painful it may help to lie on the floor with your hips elevated until it passes.

What may cause stitch?

Your organs are attached by ligaments to your diaphragm. This means that the diaphragm supports several kilograms of weight. Each time you take a step your organs move downwards, at the same time your diaphragm raises as you exhale. These movements can sometimes combine to cause stress which may lead to stitch. Stitch can be avoided by not eating too closely before or after exercise, and avoiding high fat foods and fluids with a high sugar content. Following a training schedule that progressively increases in intensity and duration may also minimize stitch. Sudden increases in intensity are more likely to cause stitch. It is much better to start at an easy level and slowly build up.

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