Dr Darren Tay, Consultant, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Singapore General Hospital​ (SGH), a member of the SingHealth​ group shares the causes of cramps and gives advice on how to relieve muscle cramps during a race.

Cramps are one of the most dreaded ailments for a runner.

In fact, runners of all abilities can experience some sort of cramping during a race, be it muscle cramps, stomach cramps or side cramps (stitches).

If you are planning to compete in a marathon or even just running for health benefits, heed the following advice so cramps don’t derail your running plan.

At the first warning sign of muscle cramps, stop and stretch. Remember to breathe deeply if you experience side cramps during a run.

Stretching can help relieve and stop muscle contractions. Resume running when the pain has eased but pick up speed gradually.

What causes cramps during a race?​

The causes of cramps vary depending on the type of cramps:

  • Stomach cramps
    Shallow breathing and poor digestion due to eating or drinking too much before a race can cause stomach cramps.

  • Muscle cramps
    Dehydration, poor stretching and insufficient carbohydrate intake can cause severe muscle cramps in the legs and calves. Even seasoned runners who run too fast, too soon during a race are susceptible to muscle cramps. It’s a common reason why inexperienced runners fail to finish their marathon.

  • Side cramps or stitches
    Shallow breathing or imbalance of electrolytes (sodium and potassium) may cause side cramps or stitches. They usually occur below the rib cage and in the lower right abdomen. The sharp, piercing pain caused by stitches is more common in beginner runners.

Read on to find out how you can prevent cramps during a race.

Ref: R14