Muscle Cramps, Monkeys, and Blue Jays

To introduce this topic, we have Kawasaki, a Toronto Blue Jays player: Kawasaki video – Monkeys + Bananas

Colin Badali Monkey Colin Badali Toronto Blue Jays

Everyone experiences muscle cramping at some point, unless you are a monkey, of course.  There are different types of cramping, and the causes can be numerous.  Muscle cramping is defined as an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that will not relax.  Cramps can last seconds or hours.  Skeletal muscle cramps can be categorized into four major types. These include “true” cramps, tetany, contractures, and dystonic cramps. Cramps are categorized according to their different causes and the muscle groups they affect.

“True cramps” are caused by hyperexcitability of nerves responsible for the muscles in question.  These can result from acute injury, or vigorous activity.  “Rest cramps” are those you might get during your sleep, especially within the calf/gastrocnemius muscle.

Dehydration and/or sodium depletion are factors involved. Low magnesium, calcium, potassium are also factors.  Deficiencies in vitamins B1, B5, B6 also potential factors involved.

Another way that cramping might occur is via poor circulation (and, oxygen deprivation as a result of this), which is complicated topic that I will not delve into here.

Not all cramps can be easily categorized however – some cramps are merely a relatively minor portion of more serious conditions such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), certain radiculopathies, or diabetic neuropathy.

*Although the cause of night cramps (i.e. in the calves) is not easy to determine, I have heard that a good preventative approach might be to stretch regularly, have adequate fluid intake, appropriate calcium and vitamin D intake, perhaps vitamin E supplementation, and perhaps, with physician consultation, magnesium supplementation.