Information about leg pain and injuries, including cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention tips. (shin splints, compartment syndrome, achilles tendonitis, achilles tendon rupture, calf strain, stress fracture, muscle cramps, abrasions and ‘Road Rash.’)
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones that often occur from overuse or repeated stress on the bones of the lower legs or feet. If not treated promptly, stress fractures can become chronic and recurrent injuries.
Rest is the recommended treatment while the fracture heals, but many athletes shudder at the thought of not being able to keep consistently active.
If you’ve suffered a stress fracture, how have you dealt with it? Perhaps you’ve directed your exercise energies elsewhere, or kept your focus on how you’re going to amp up your training once you’re well. Share what got you through being sidelined.
If you’ve ever had muscle spasms or muscle cramps, you know they can be extremely painful. In some cases, a muscle may spasm so forcefully that it results in a bruise on the skin. Most muscle spasms and cramps are involuntary contractions of a muscle. A serious muscle spasm doesn’t release on its own and requires manual stretching to help relax and lengthen the shortened muscle. Spasms and cramps can be mild or extremely painful. While they can happen to any skeletal muscle, they are most common in the legs and feet and muscles that cross two joints (the calf muscle, for example). Cramps can involve part of a muscle or all the muscles in a group. The most commonly affected muscle groups are:
- Back of lower leg / calf (gastrocnemius).
- Back of thigh (hamstrings).
- Front of thigh (quadriceps).
- Feet, hands, arms, abdomen
Muscle cramps range in intensity from a slight twitch or tic to severe pain. A cramped muscle can feel rock-hard and last a few seconds to several minutes or longer. It is not uncommon for cramps to ease up and then return several times before they go away entirely.
What Causes Muscle Cramps
The exact cause of muscle cramps is still unknown, but the theories most commonly cited include:
- Altered neuromuscular control
- Electrolyte depletion
- Poor conditioning
- Muscle fatigue
- Doing a new activity
Other factors that have been associated with muscle cramps include exercising in extreme heat. The belief is that muscle cramps are more common during exercise in the heat because sweat contains fluids as well as electrolyte (salt, potassium, magnesium and calcium). When these nutrients fall to certain levels, the incidence of muscle spasms increases. Because athletes are more likely to get cramps in the preseason, near the end of (or the night after) intense or prolonged exercise, some feel that a lack of conditioning results in cramps.