Corky Carroll

Dealing with leg cramps

 Recently I had a question sent to me for my “Ask the Expert” column which appears in the Sports section of the Register on Wednesdays, that came from a person who is a runner and recently has taken up surfing. The problem the person is having is getting leg cramps when surfing and I was asked if I have any secret remedies for this problem.  As a matter of fact I also suffer from leg cramps when surfing, especially when I have been in the water a long time an am starting to get tired. When I used to play a lot of tennis it was even worse if I surfed after tennis. I think this had to do with sweating so much when playing tennis and then going into the cold water we have here in Orange County most of the year. Probably the same situation with the runner. I don’t play tennis anymore and the cramp problem has subsided considerably, yet I do still get them. 

It normally starts with toe cramps then goes into calf cramps. THAT is the signal that it’s time to go in. The next step is thigh cramps and you DO NOT want to get those when you are in the water. It’s the worst, you can’t get rid of them until you can get to the beach and stretch it out by walking it off. And they are very painful. 

There are many theories on remedies for cramps. I have always believed in bananas and a little bit of salt. But after this question appeared in the paper I got emails offering other suggestions. My doctor recommended taking Potassium and Magnesium supplements. A number of people suggested drinking tonic water and some swear by that. One girl wrote that it works for her but makes her ears ring. There is evidently an over the counter product called “Leg Cramps” that is made by Highlands and sold at Wal-Mart in the Pharmacy section. This product contains quinine which is also in tonic water. The report on these pills is that they work great and are not expensive. 

Also reported to be a savior for cramps is coconut water. I have heard that a number of times. If you are in the tropics just grab a coconut, but if not you can find coconut water in most stores these days. 

Two suggestions that I had never heard before and I find very interesting are mustard and pickle juice. I am told that if you keep some of those little packets of mustard around you can suck one down when you get a cramp and they go away pretty quickly. Well, that could be good if you already have one but I really don’t want to get one in the first place. Pickle juice sounds more productive, especially if you  like pickles. Just woof down a big mega dill before you paddle out. A solid case of pickle breath might also help you out with unwanted people hanging too close to you in the lineup too. Give ya some space. 

That’s pretty much what I have on this so far. I am sure a little stretching before paddling out helps too, especially when the water is cold.