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What You Didn’t Know About Muscle Cramps

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By now, most of us are aware of the muscle cramps that plagued LeBron James throughout Game 1 of the NBA Finals that rendered him unable to finish the game. Many fans and critics have expressed their unfounded sentiments about how he should “play through the pain” so to speak. Any athlete who has ever experienced a true, paralyzing muscle cramp understands this is a condition that simply cannot be “played” through and in turn can lead to more serious muscle/tendon injury such as strain or rupture.

This leads us to the question, what is a muscle cramp exactly?  A muscle cramp is defined by involuntary, forcible contractions of one or more muscles. Muscle cramps occur most commonly in the lower extremity (foot, calf, leg), however other muscles are prone to cramping as well. Studies estimate approximately 9 out of 10 people will experience a cramp sometime in their lifetime. So, what causes a muscle cramp?

The most common causes include:

  •  Poor Circulation in the lower extremity
  •  Overexertion of muscles during physical activity
  •  Insufficient stretching of muscles prior to physical activity
  •  Exercising in humid conditions
  •  Dehydration
  •  Nutritional deficiencies including calcium, potassium, and magnesium

Many of these predisposing factors undoubtedly played a role for LeBron James. So how can you prevent muscle cramps? The easiest way to minimize your risk of muscle cramping is simply stretching prior to engaging in physical activity – a commonly ignored step during a work out (I am guilty of this as well).

Other methods include staying hydrated, eating foods high in vitamins and minerals (calcium, potassium, magnesium) which I like to call “B Foods”. What are “B Foods”? B Foods include Bananas, kidney Beans, Black Beans, whole wheat Bread, Brown rice, raisin Bran…you get the idea.

In many cases, muscle cramps are self-limiting and go away within minutes. However, frequent cramping of the legs or feet can be an early sign of a more serious medical condition known as peripheral vascular disease or PVD. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call our office at (337) 474-2233 or visit our website at for more information.

– Dr. Daniel T. Hall IV

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Source: Louisiana Foot and Ankle Specialists Blog

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