DESCRIPTIONMuscle cramps are painful involuntary contractions of muscles in swimmers and others
caused by abnormalities of the nervous system or exercise-related changes in muscle-cell chemistry. Appropriate health care includes physical therapy, including warm soaks, applications of ice or heat, whirlpool, or gentle massage that may help with residual pain and soreness in a child's cramped muscles.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Painful, involuntary contraction of muscles, usually in the child's leg. Swimming, more than other sports, causes leg cramps in athletes during exercise.
CAUSESVigorous physical activity.
Inadequate warm-up before engaging in strenuous physical activity.
In swimmers, the cause of leg cramps is frequently unknown, and their presence does not suggest an underlying disorder.
RISK FACTORSCalcium deficiency.
Nerve disorders, such as pressure on nerve roots near the child's spinal cord, or abnormalities of nerve fibers after they leave the spinal cord.
Enzyme deficiency (temporary).
Diabetes, alcoholism, chronic kidney disease, a variety of medications, Buerger's disease, all of which can cause damage to a child's peripheral nerves and thereby cause muscle cramps.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEInstructions for your child:
Undertake a slow, thorough conditioning program prior to beginning vigorous physical activity, including swimming.
Consult your doctor if you take any medicine and develop cramps. Discontinuing or modifying the dosage may prevent recurrent cramps.
If you have an enzyme deficiency, there is no treatment except to reduce sports activities below the level that produces cramps.
Don't smoke. Avoid polluted air while exercising. Both may decrease oxygen flow to muscles. Oxygen is needed in the muscles to avoid cramps.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Blood studies (sometimes) to measure the child's enzyme levels.
Permanent muscle contractures (rare).
Permanently weakened muscle groups (rare).
Fear of recurrence, resulting in unwarranted abandonment of the child's exercise program.
Can be controlled by treating any underlying medical disorder, using medication (carbamazepine), and undertaking a better conditioning program.
HOME CAREInstructions for your child:
Stretch and rub the cramping muscles.
Voluntarily contract the muscles that directly oppose those that are cramping. For example, if cramps affect the calf of the leg, force the front of the foot upward toward the knee and hold it until the cramp is diminished.
MEDICATIONCarbamazepine for muscle cramps due to nerve damage.
Aspirin or acetaminophen for pain following a muscle cramp.
Your doctor may prescribe the following medications:
Your child should decrease or discontinue vigorous physical activity until the muscle cramp relaxes.
DIET & FLUIDSIf your child has frequent muscle cramps from any cause, provide foods high in potassium, such as dried apricots, whole-grain cereal (hot or cold), dried lentils, dried peaches, bananas, peanuts, citrus fruits, or fresh vegetables.
Following a diet high in complex carbohydrates makes good nutritional sense to all those hoping to maintain or reach a good level of health and fitness. However, your child should not eat such a meal within 3 to 5 hours before competition, and should eat only lightly directly afterwards.
Make sure you provide sufficient calcium in the child's diet through the use of dairy products or calcium supplements.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, when condition and sense of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has persistent or recurrent muscle cramps despite following the suggestions above.
Your child develops new symptoms after starting any prescribed medicine. All effective medicines have potentially undesirable side effects. These can frequently be controlled by modifying the dosage.