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Thread: Calf and Arch Cramping

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    Calf and Arch Cramping

    I'm just about one year into swimming since stopping after college thirty years ago. I always retained great leg strength though biking but seven years ago I developed very bad sciatica at disc L5-S1, and pain down my left leg was excruciating. Three years ago I had a 2nd surgery and finally began recovery. The problem that remains is a tendency (actually more of a certainty) of getting bad cramps in my left calf and both arches in my feet. The chiropractors we get at big swim meets all say any nerve damage would be healed by now and I simply need to strengthen my calf muscle. Using fins will guarantee a cramp in seconds and actually so will a pull-buoy.
    Anybody else every had this dilemma?

  2. #2
    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Hey Patrick! The cause of your cramps may be completely unrelated to your previous back problem. Are you keeping hydrated while you swim? I make sure to drink water before I swim and keep a bottle handy to drink from throughout my workout. And, depending on the conditions and workout, I will drink Gatorade (or something similar), as well.

    You may also have a potassium defiency which can lead to cramping. It wouldn't hurt to eat a banana before you swim and see if that helps.

    How cold is the water you are swimming in? As much as I love swimming in cooler water, my legs will cramp in anything cooler than 79 degrees, if I don't keep moving.

    As you know, I am not a doctor, but I believe my suggestions are valid. If none of this applies to your situation, you may want to check with your doctor for advice.

    Good luck and see you at the next meet!
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    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineK View Post
    Hey Patrick! The cause of your cramps may be completely unrelated to your previous back problem. Are you keeping hydrated while you swim? I make sure to drink water before I swim and keep a bottle handy to drink from throughout my workout. And, depending on the conditions and workout, I will drink Gatorade (or something similar), as well.

    You may also have a potassium defiency which can lead to cramping. It wouldn't hurt to eat a banana before you swim and see if that helps.

    How cold is the water you are swimming in? As much as I love swimming in cooler water, my legs will cramp in anything cooler than 79 degrees, if I don't keep moving.

    As you know, I am not a doctor, but I believe my suggestions are valid. If none of this applies to your situation, you may want to check with your doctor for advice.

    Good luck and see you at the next meet!
    Hey Elaine.... no, I'm sure this is sciatica related. I drink water and power aid through the day, and usually have at least one banana in the morning. It also doesn't matter what pool I'm at or the temp. I'm worried there's still a bit of pinched nerve in there so I'd start with an orthopedic specialist.

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    aka Elaine-iaK & Aqua Dog ElaineK's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickJM View Post
    Hey Elaine.... no, I'm sure this is sciatica related. I drink water and power aid through the day, and usually have at least one banana in the morning. It also doesn't matter what pool I'm at or the temp. I'm worried there's still a bit of pinched nerve in there so I'd start with an orthopedic specialist.
    I'm sorry to hear that; I hope you are able to get the problem resolved soon! I can relate, regarding your back surgery. In 1987, I had a laminectomy and discectomy on the exact same disc. It did take about one year for the nerves to regenerate in my left leg and foot. Fortunately, I haven't had any problems since.

    Good luck!
    http://ElaineiaKsTravels.wordpress.com

    ~ Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations ~Karla Peterson

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    I remember I would get tremendous cramping on the bottom of my feet, lower calves, and hamstrings. The muscles would suddenly contract and amass if I didn't stop and relax. I would be swimming along, get hit by it, then struggle to the side nearly drowning and get out. For me it had nothing to do with hydration and salts, but was very consistent with endurance. Hard dryland resistance training just made it worse unless fully recovered. Had marginal success as my endurance increased, but was still inevitable long before any decent degree of workout was achieved.

    Then, about a year ago I started toying around with yoga positions I found illustrated in a book of my wife's. Just assuming here, but the cramping has disappeared since then. This is with all activities, swimming, sleeping, or whatever (once had a bad cramp during peak intimacy which almost ruined the mood).

    Though my swims are mostly low yardage and sprint-like, it was put to test the other day with a long slower paced swim (100 X50yds on 1:00 holding low 40's) that followed a full body workout with weights (much more than I typically do in a day). No cramping. Not sure what type of yoga it is or if I'm doing it right but it has definitely helped with cramping, among other stuff. Might be worth a try.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    I have had lots of calf and especiall foot cramping over the years. I have had lots of hip trouble over the years that also really affects my calf and achilles. What tends to happen is the hips block lots of the blood flow and nerves that extend to the lower limb. This has caused problems for my calf in the past and they really tighten up.

    To overcome this I stretch and massage my hips LOTS! One of the best stretches I have found is:
    Lie on your back and raise 1 leg in the air so that it is pointing to the cieling. Wrap a theroband or skipping rope around the foot and the with your hands pull it across your body. Try to keep your shoulder AND hips on the ground. Hold this for 30sec and then do on the other side.

    In terms of massage I do this constantly. I get a baseball and put it into my glutes and hips as I lie on it and gently roll around on it. Or I lean up against a wall and push my glutes and hips into the ball. This can be painful but boy do I love it. It frees everything up and amazingly it actually helps my lower legs as well as my back and hips.

    Not sure if this will help you but it has really helped me so may be worth a go. Good luck with it all.
    For information on swimming breaststroke: http://breaststrokezone.com

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Make sure you go to a sports related doc. & tell him/her what your goals are. Good luck.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Thanks all for the tips. Another swimmer at Greensboro was also stressing yoga so I'll look into it. I have also tried the tennis ball/ golf ball for messaging my arches -easy at work to just stand up once in a while and roll the ball under my feet. It hurts but it helps. I'll try the same thing with my glutes and piriformis muscles.

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    Very Active Member Peter Cruise's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Hey Patrick- try the tennis ball massage with a frozen water bottle of the same diameter- you get the same massage and some anti-inflammatory effect as well.
    Life keeps throwing curve balls; the trick, I'm learning, is to duck...

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    Very Active Member EJB190's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    In addition to the water and potassium, you might want to also try 500mg of magnesium from your local pharmacy.

    I used to always get cramps in my legs but taking potassium gluconate 550mg before swimming every day has helped me substantially.

    I've heard from some that magnesium helps as well. It might be worth a shot. If you do try it, watch what you buy because some magnesium salts are laxatives- like magnesium citrate. You'd want to buy one recommended for muscle/nervous system/bone health. Eating lots of sugar and drinking alcohol can decrease your Mg levels substantially

    I've had a few doctors recommend magnesium for my constant back spasms. It didn't help me, but I have a very complicated situation.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    Make sure you go to a sports related doc. & tell him/her what your goals are. Good luck.

    +1

    Also physical therapists tend to be knowledgable and helpful.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    After the tennis ball butt massage yesterday not really any cramps in today's swim -even on 12x 50 backstroke kick with flippers. But man my glutes are sore. Lots of stretching in order tonight.

    Thanks again everyone.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    I heard someone mention recently that drinking half a glass of tonic water before swimming totally took care of his foot/leg cramping problems. I haven't tried this myself because I haven't had much trouble with cramping lately, and I've never heard this solution before - but it sounds pretty simple to test out.

  14. #14
    Very Active Member laineybug's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Another thought--I got terrible cramps in my calves just before I was Dx with Hypothyroidism. Once I started taking meds the cramps went away.
    Lainey

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    Very Active Member magick17's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    One banana doesn't do it..
    I have hypothyroidism and cramp
    To avoid cramping I ritualistically consume..
    2v8 low sodium during the day....gives me 2400 mg of potassium and 2 cal/mag/zinc at 500mg each at dinner...I sleep like a baby and no more cramping....also I use tyr ebp burner fins, they are soft rubber and shorter...

    Good luck, it'll get better!

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    My grandmother has hypothyroidism, she turns 101 this year.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Quote Originally Posted by __steve__ View Post
    My grandmother has hypothyroidism, she turns 101 this year.

    I recommend she give up the 200 fly.

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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickJM View Post
    I'm just about one year into swimming since stopping after college thirty years ago. I always retained great leg strength though biking but seven years ago I developed very bad sciatica at disc L5-S1, and pain down my left leg was excruciating. Three years ago I had a 2nd surgery and finally began recovery. The problem that remains is a tendency (actually more of a certainty) of getting bad cramps in my left calf and both arches in my feet. The chiropractors we get at big swim meets all say any nerve damage would be healed by now and I simply need to strengthen my calf muscle. Using fins will guarantee a cramp in seconds and actually so will a pull-buoy.
    Anybody else every had this dilemma?
    I came here looking for the relationship between sodium/potassium and high hematocrit levels. I had dynesys done on L4-L5. Pro firefighter/ medic, and roofing company owner for 25 years. Back is fantastic, recommend looking into it if you have no relief. And, yes I swim like a fish!

  19. #19
    Swimming gives me a buzz! Bobinator's Avatar
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    Re: Calf and Arch Cramping

    I have a very extensive running background and used to own a tech running store. Your symptoms sound similar to plantar fasciitis. I know your problem is probably related to your sciatica but maybe your symptoms could be helped using the same measures we use to help folks with the other problem.
    Try wearing shoes with a firm mid-sole and a good heel counter all day long. Add a 1/4 inch heel lift to your shoes; if you can find a simple sorbathane heel lift they seem to work very well. Never wear flip-flops, Toms, or shoes with negative heel lift.
    They make night time braces for plantar fasciitis but I've never known anyone who had much success with them. The ice massages can give some temporary relief too.
    HTFU!

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