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What's the Story about Cramps?

Just about everyone who has played football has experienced a cramp at some time. Cramps can range from mildly uncomfortable to severely debilitating and are a great source of frustation to everyone from recreational footballers to professionals.

  • Cramps occurring during exercise are referred to as Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps to distinguish them from those that may occur at rest or as a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
  • Exercise related cramps are best described as a sudden, tight and intense pain that most commonly occur in the muscle groups directly involved in running e.g. calf or hamstring. They can range from a slight twinge to an excruciating pain, and may last for a few seconds or several minutes. An exercise related cramp can be a one-off or occur several times before the ¬†muscle relaxes and the pain goes away.
  • Cramp is more likely to occur in tired muscles and ones that are already in a shortened position. Poor fitness, poor flexibility or exercising at high workloads can increase the liklihood that they will occur. Poor stretching habits may also contribute.
  • Dehydration has for a long time been associated as a possible cause of exercise related cramp. Cramp has been attributed to the depletion of sodium, potassium and minerals such as calcium and magnesium.

How can I avoid cramp?

  • Allow adequate recovery and rest for muscles after hard training sessions.
  • Increase your strength and fitness. Stronger, fitter muscles are more resilient to fatigue and therefore cramp.
  • Maintain good muscle flexibility.
  • Be wary when changing speed or intensity especially during the later stages of training and playing. Fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp.
  • Wear comfortable, unrestrictive clothing and comfortable footwear.
  • Practise good hydration principles before, during and after exercise to optimise muscle function.

How should cramp be treated?

  • Rest and stretching helps to decrease the muscle contraction and allow the muscle to relax.
  • Massaging the area can help recovery and decrease muscle soreness.
  • Applying ice can help reduce muscle spasm.
  • If pain is severe or re-occurring, get assessed from our physiotherapists or your GP.

Please note: this information should serve as a guide only. When in doubt, always seek advice from Southside Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre or your GP.


We do not warrant or represent that the information in this site is free from errors or omissions or is suitable for your intended use. We recommend that you seek individual advice before acting on any information in this site. We have made every effort to ensure that the information on our website is correct at the time of publication but recommend that you exercise your own skill and care with respect to its use. If you wish to purchase our services, please do not rely solely on the information in this website.

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