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Are cramps getting you in a pickle?

So we all think we know what cramps are right - how we get them? Well it’s a little more complex than we think, so stick with us here you will get the point, but first the science.

Sports scientists now think that the best way to stop cramps is to overload the nervous system somewhere else.

No one has ever really attributed cramps to anything specific and as such we are not completely sure why we get cramps while we’re exercising.

For decades we have worked off the theory that reduced electrolyte levels within the muscles stops the process of muscle relaxation from happening at the level of the muscle cell. But more recent theories are leaning towards more of nervous system malfunction as the cause for cramps.

Use pickles or gherkins to stop cramps!

It’s thought that for some reason, the nerve that tells the muscle to contract and relax, gets stuck and continuously fires to the muscle, telling it to stay contracted. Sports scientists now think that the best way to stop this is to overload the nervous system somewhere else, and in recent years, athletes worldwide have been using the brine from a jar of pickles or gherkins to stop their cramps!

So why is this the case? Well the intense salty-vinegary-ness of the pickle juice stimulates the ‘oropharyngeal reflex’- yep the one use when you “gag” in the back of your throat. This shocks the nervous system and gets it, for those few seconds, to concentrate on ‘what the hell is going on in my throat?!’, in turn, stopping the bombardment of nerve signals to the muscle.

So, if you’re unlucky enough to be prone to cramps it may be worth your while carrying a small amount (30mL) of pickle juice in a gel flask in your training sessions and events, to relieve those cramps in a very short period of time.

There are other commercial off the shelf products but considering the cost, I think I might unload my jar of pickles, and give it a go!

So if you do suffer from cramps reach for the gherkin jar before you’re in a pickle!

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