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Mario Serban is the cofounder of LA Training Room. He is a former Trainer and Massage Therapist for The Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

LA Training Room's Blog - What to do if you have muscle cramps

What to do if you have muscle cramps

September 8, 2013

When I worked in NHL, muscle spasm is something that hockey players deal with frequently. It’s practically part of the game.
So what is the best way to deal with a sudden muscle spasm?
Muscle cramp is when the fiber in your muscle spasms and it contracts involuntarily. This usually happens to athletes and non-athletes that do the same repetitive move over and over. Well that’s one of the causes of course. It also happens if you are dehydrated or you’re lacking potassium in your system.
Best way to get rid of cramps is by stretch that muscle right away. Stay in that stretching position until you feel that the muscles is coming back to normal. By doing so you will elongate that particular contracted muscle and bring it back to normal. This is probably the easiest way to deal with a sudden muscular cramp.
Another way is using tens and release technique. And by that you will have to tens and contract the opposite muscle. For instance when someone does biceps curls that particular action is called flexion of the shoulder and the main muscle that is being contracted is the biceps. The opposite action of this would be extension of the shoulder and by doing so you will contract the triceps muscles. In other words if you are having a spasm on you biceps while you are doing curls than you will immediately flex the opposite muscle and that would be the triceps. Keep the triceps flexed until the spasm is gone. And of course vice-versa.
And it goes the same for the other parts of the body and here I will enumerate some common opposite muscles that are prone to cramping.
For quadriceps the opposite muscle would be the hamstrings. So if you are running a marathon and the hamstring muscles are cramping the immediately start flexing the quads. Do the oposit if the quads are cramping.
For calfs ( gastrocnemius, soleus) the opposite muscle would be anterior tibialis.
For forearm flexors digitorum the opposite muscle is extensor digitorum.
Third way to deal with muscle spasm is by applying a bag of ice on that particular muscle as soon as it cramps. Ice will release tension in the muscle and it will create the feel good sensation. Of course this is a little unpractical since we’re not always around ice or ice bags. But if that’s available it works great.
Staying hydrated is also quintessential in preventing muscle cramps. Water is the best however there are time when other fluids might work better. And that fluid is Pedialyte. Yes you read it right.
In an event of dehydration Pedialyte is better than any Gatorade or any other drink. So if you are going for a long run or a marathon then drinking Pedialyte before and after would be a great idea.
However there are times when all this would be insufficient and then professional help is required. In this case IV (intravenous) would be the appropriate way.
This is what happened when legendary NHL goalie Sean Burke came off the ice one night at the end of a game and he couldn’t let go his stick because he had a hand and forearm muscle spasm. His spasm was so severe that we couldn’t lift his fingers off the stick! We cut his jersey and he was immediately put on an IV while he was still holding the stick in his hand. Soon after the muscle released and he was able to let the stick go. He had that muscle cramp for quite a few minutes before the game ended but he was afraid to do anything about it since it was the ending of a very important game. That is dedication and he was indeed a formidable goalie!
Hockey goalies carry a lot of protection gear on them therefore they get very hot during a game which means they sweat more than usual. So that’s why hockey goalies get very hydrated and that’s why Sean Burke had that nasty muscle spasm.
So if you are an amateur hockey goalie make sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a game. Also don’t forget your bananas! Bananas are a great source of potassium and lack of potassium will lead to muscle spasm.