Muscle the muscle, otherwise recognized as muscle cramps.

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. 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, allowing a chemical interaction between actin and myosin,
which results in muscle shortening. Both the contraction and muscle relaxation
are energy dependent. Contraction is supplied by hydrolysis of ATP, while muscle
relaxation depends on active reuptake of Ca+2 by the SR, which also requires
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.

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I'm Rita!

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