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Leg Cramps in Water

Dangers of Leg and Foot Cramps While Swimming - Swimmers and snorkelers can suffer intense pain from a leg cramp or calf muscle spasms, usually without any warning, forcing an abrupt halt to all in-water activities. There are several simple reasons, and some complex medical causes, why snorkelers get muscle cramping, but inefficient flipper kicking and improper fitting swim fins are among the major factors.

Causes of Muscular Spasm

Note: Muscle cramping in water is dangerous and fatal in some circumstances.

Cramping is the sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscles resulting in sharp pain. In most cases the abrupt twinging spasms are relatively harmless and are typically caused by;

Calf and Foot Cramps While Swimming

An unprepared swimmer or snorkeler in deep water could drown as a result of a sudden and debilitating pang. The pain usually occurs in the calf area of the lower leg, in the arch of the foot (called foot arch cramps), or in the hamstring (the muscle group running from the back of the knee to the buttocks).

Follow these snorkeling tips and learn how to help prevent severe hyperkinesia and more importantly, what to do and how to fix aching or excessive leg cramps in water while you are swimming or scuba diving.

Reasons Snorkelers Get Cramps

Make sure your snorkeling flippers fit properly because wearing fins too tightly on your feet can result in a decrease of blood flow to your foot. Foot pocket sizes also vary according to the manufacturer (similar to shoes).

The most common mistake we see is snorkelers' with extremely large or small feet choosing the next higher or lower size as a makeshift solution.

Foot arch cramps are quite common for swimmers who use full foot fins - especially if you have a high arch in your foot. The foot pocket portion may cause undue stress on the muscles in the arch of your feet by putting excess downward pressure on the top of your feet.

The general guide is to ensure that most of your foot arch is inserted inside of the foot pocket when the strap is adjusted. If the fit is too big or too small it may also cause muscle cramp in foot arches.

Any fin with a very stiff blade may cause cramping in the arch, through the hamstring, or in the calf muscles. The leg muscles need to work much harder to move the blades through the water - like trying to kick water with two flat, heavy boards on your feet.

Conversely, kicking with a floppy fin blade which is too flexible may also attribute to muscle cramping and arch spasms. The trouble comes from overworking your leg muscles to produce enough power to move through the water.

Blade fins which are too long may also cause problems, depending on the stiffness of the blades and whether you are using a paddle fin design or split fin technology.

What causes cramps in the arch of your foot? Snorkelers' fin-kicking technique can be a contributing factor to leg cramping and excessive muscle spasms. Forceful, excessive, and continual kicking almost guarantees some kind of a strain in the leg or foot area. Beginners and novices are prone to bicycle kicking or using an improper 'finning' style.

Most cramping occurs while swimming at high speeds because plantar flexing your ankles for speed and power (pointing your toes like a ballerina) is an unnatural position for your ankles. This may cause tightness, tension and cramping in your calf. It is better to slow down allowing your ankles to be relaxed rather than holding them in a tight position.

Treatments for Muscle Cramping

Calf and Foot Cramps While SwimmingSnorkelers who are wearing fins can also use them to relieve a calf cramp or muscle spasm in the foot arch area. Simply grab the tip of the fin blade and pull it towards your body to stretch out the leg muscle - opposite of how it cramped.

This technique is similar to bending forward at the waist to touch the toes while exercising. Use your snorkeling buddy to assist you if you are not alone in the water.

Electrolytes and Hydration

The common culprits of calf cramping include improper nutrition and poor hydration. To many, it may seem unnecessary to hydrate while in the water. The fact is you are still perspiring while swimming and loosing body fluids - especially in hot climates. Always hydrate before, during, and particularly after your snorkel swim to reduce the likelihood of muscle contractions.

Suffering regular calf cramping may indicate that your body has a level imbalance of magnesium, potassium, or calcium. Electrolyte replacement drinks and eating bananas or green leafy vegetables should be part of any rigorous workout to keep your body topped up with nutrients and eat dairy products such as eggs and milk for additional calcium.

Decondition Issues

Underlying health issues, or being out of shape with a lack of muscle tone, contribute towards many of the medical causes for muscle cramping. Snorkelers and swimmers need to understand that even though snorkeling is meant to be relaxing, it is also a form of physical exercise and muscular exertion.

Deconditioning occurs when you lose fitness or muscle tone and especially through a lack of regular exercise. This results in weak muscles and poor stamina or endurance. Your body is less able to adequately respond to a sudden increase in exertive activity resulting in micro tears in the muscle and a lack of oxygen.

Many people start swimming when they are out of shape because it is considered to be a reduced-joint-impact exercise. Nonetheless, it is best not to rush it and build up the length and intensity of your swimming sessions over time. Consider adding a little weight training, brisk walks, and other aerobic activities to your routine. In time, this should improve your overall conditioning and physical fitness and therefore reduce the likelihood of your body cramping in pain.

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