Bodywork: Cramps: a reader's perspective
Scientific research have revealed little about remedies for cramps, but anecdotal evidence exists indicating that ice could be a valuable treatment.
You probably get tired of our Laurel and (Dr.) Hardy routine every month. So to break it up, we thought we'd share an interesting (and slightly edited) response we received from a reader last month after our column on muscle cramps:
It has been my experience that when suffering activity-induced cramps, the fastest and most effective way to eliminate them is with ice. I owe this revelation to my wife, who introduced me to this treatment when I was suffering from cramps following a workout in 100-degree heat. Ice bags on all the cramping muscles gave 100 percent relief. Since then, whenever I, my sons or our teammates in various sporting events have experienced cramps, application of ice has always worked to eliminate the problem.
I would love for the word to spread about the benefits of ice therapy for what surely must be heat-induced cramping during strenuous activity.
Sincerely, Ken Elliott
Dr. Prescott prescribes
Our decidedly brief review of the literature didn't turn up any research studies that would seem to back up Ken's observations. In fact, when scientists from the Stanford University School of Medicine published a study in 2010 that analyzed more than 500 papers on the topic of cramping, the accompanying news release pretty much said it all: “Review finds painfully few surefire treatments for muscle cramps.”
But when we dug a bit deeper, we did find an interesting anecdotal report that lends some credence to Ken's experiences.
In the 1990s, Stanford biologists began experimenting with a rapid-cooling device, hypothesizing that it could speed muscle recovery. Their subsequent published work showed that rapid cooling helped prevent muscle exhaustion during exercise.
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