Muscle dystonic cramps. However, this project is going to

Muscle Cramps

As a recent victim of severe muscle cramps, I decided to take up the
matter as the topic of my extra credit project. Muscle cramps are muscle spasms
elongated for indefinite periods of time. Muscles contract involuntarily and
forcibly, resulting in mild to intense pain that can last anywhere from seconds
to over fifteen minutes. Muscle cramps can appear distorted or feel firmer than
its normal, relaxed state. Muscle cramps have the ability to affect any
skeletal muscle, whether it be a part of or a whole muscle, even several muscle
groups.

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Cramps are divided into four categories, based on their causes and
affected muscle groups: true cramps, tetany, contractures, and dystonic cramps.

However, this project is going to address the most common type of muscle cramp:
true cramps. Despite their ability to occur in any skeletal muscle, these
muscle cramps generally tend to take place in three areas: the gastrocnemius,
hamstrings, and quadriceps. Muscle cramps occurring in these areas (especially
in the calf/gastrocnemius area) are commonly referred to as a “charley horse.”

Victims of muscle cramps are vast, including infants, seniors,
overambitious exercisers, endurance athletes, and the ill. What is the cause of
the physiological phenomena that affect this vast array of people? For the
longest time, scientists and experts suspected insufficient stretching and
muscle fatigue, heated exercise and dehydration, electrolyte imbalance,
inadequate blood supply, and nerve compression to be causes of muscles cramps. Not
to say that the earlier mentioned are not variables in the occurrence of muscle
cramps, however, scientists have found more direct, stronger links to the
condition.

The first suspected cause is the hyperexcitability of the nerves that
stimulate the muscles. The central nervous system’s fatigue or overuse of
communication with muscles weakens the restrictive quality of the central
nervous system. Both found in skeletal muscles, muscle spindles and Golgi
tendon organs are the spinal reflex’s two receptors. Muscles spindles become
hyperactive and Golgi tendon organs become inhibited, leading to sustained
activation of the muscle, otherwise recognized as muscle cramps.

Another well-backed theory retaining to muscle cramp is the imbalance
between the motor neurons to the spinal excitatory and inhibitory input. This
is well explained by Lawrence Z. Stern and Cherles Bernick in Clinical Methods:
The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Lower
motor neurons generate impulses to which muscle fibers contract. These impulses
are also known as action potential(AP), which release the neurotransmitter
acetylcholine upon reaching the presynaptic nerve terminals. Sufficient
acetylcholine activates postsynaptic receptors to produce muscle AP. At the interior
of the muscle fiber, the AP releases calcium stored in the SR. The calcium “binds
to a regulatory protein, permitting the chemical interaction between actin and
myosin, which results in muscle shortening” (Stern, Bernick). Both the
contraction and muscle relaxation are energy dependent; Contraction is supported
by hydrolysis of ATP, while muscle relaxation relies on the reuptake of Ca+2 by
the SR, which also calls for ATP. As can be seen, ATP is a crucial aspect, and
in its lacking, the muscle stays shortened even in the absence of AP.

Although
the cause of the phenomena is equally important, most people want to know: How
do I prevent or weaken the severities of muscle cramps? Just like the cause,
the solutions for muscle cramps hare various. Commonly referred remedies
include: stretching, hydration, sufficient intake and balance of electrolytes,
and ice or heat application. In moderation, all of these solutions are safe and
likely to prevent or at least dull the effects of muscle cramps.

With the
majority of people experiencing at least one muscle cramp in their lifetime,
this project is a universally useful and applicable paper to inform people
about the occurrence and prevention of muscle cramps.