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Exercise-associated muscle cramps

Muscle cramp is a temporary, intense, and painful involuntary contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. Muscle cramps can occur during or immediately after exercise.

Muscle cramps are more common in specific physiological states such as pregnancy and exercise and may be present in numerous medical or neurological conditions. Some studies suggest that medications such as diuretics and statins may also promote muscle cramps.

Exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) are one of the most common conditions that occur during or immediately after sporting events, and stretching is the quickest, safest, and most effective treatment.


The exact causes are uncertain. However, some theories have been proposed. The first of the proposed theories suggest that muscle cramps may be associated with alterations in water and salt balance. While another more recent theory postulates that muscle cramps occur when fatigue and other risk factors cause an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory stimuli in the motor nerve.

The role of genetics

Individual differences in the occurrence of cramps and muscle fatigue associated with physical exercise are determined by polymorphic variations in the SLC16A1 gene, also known as monocarboxylate transporter 1 or MCT1.

 The MCT1 transporter appears to play a key physiological role in the uptake of lactate from the circulation and, by extension, may be related to exercise performance.

Specifically, the MTC1 transporter regulates the efficiency of the plasma lactate clearance process. Individual differences in sports performance and the appearance of muscle fatigue are determined by genetic variations in this gene. The rs1049434 polymorphism, analyzed here, seems to be related to the occurrence of muscle cramps and indirect injuries.


Given that one of the possible causes of muscle cramps is an electrolyte imbalance, one of the ways to prevent the appearance of cramps associated with physical exercise will be precisely electrolyte replacement after physical activity, since replacing lost electrolytes will help us to prevent possible muscle cramps.

Gene or region studied

  • SLC16A1
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