Cramping Your Style

There is nothing quite as disruptive when you’re swimming peacefully along, enjoying the serenity of the underwater world, at one with nature, and BAM! A serious cramp hits you in the arch of your foot, your calf, your thigh. A single cramp can send shockwaves of pain through the immediate area, and can even be debilitating. You can’t just shoot to the surface from depth due to the decompression risks, but you can’t just accept limited mobility and pain for the rest of your dive, so what can you do? Don’t panic, diver — help is on the way! There are a few simple techniques that can help you deal with cramps while you’re on a dive, and also prevent them from happening regularly.

Prevention

You may have guessed that physiology is a component of cramp prevention, as the functions of our various organs and body parts have a direct connection with our immediate and long-term health. Although there are varying opinions on whether there is a direct correlation between hydration and cramping, anecdotal studies abound in which a person suffering from cramps during or after physical activity benefits from increased hydration. Medical experts also cite mineral deficiencies as a cause for cramping, specifically sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. All of these minerals are electrolytes, necessary for controlling the fluid balance within your body. Try to get recommended quantities of these minerals into your diet through food, rather than popping a pill every day. Though it might be more convenient, there is no substitute for the original source!

On-Site Solutions

The most important thing to do at the onset of a cramp is relax. It may seem counterintuitive to the way your body wants to respond, but try to really concentrate. Alert your dive buddy, so that he or she can assist you through the process. It will help if you are able to sit on the seabed while you try to work out the cramp.

  • Calf Cramp: Extend the leg with the cramp in front of you, and pull the tip of your fin toward your chest. Point to the area of the cramp so your dive buddy can massage it if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Foot Cramp: Take your foot out of the fin (and dive boot if you have one on). Pull your toes toward you, and have your dive buddy rub vertically along your foot muscles, not across — rubbing across the muscle can worsen the pain.
  • Thigh Cramp: These kinds of cramps are not as frequent, but can be more severe and longer lasting. Stretch your leg in front of you, and you or your dive buddy rub in the direction of the muscle; again, not across. If you are still experiencing pain, you may have to call the dive. After the dive, use a heating pad to soothe the muscle. Some people find relief from gently rolling a cylindrical object, like a rolling pin, up and down the leg in the direction of the muscle. You will want the muscle to heal before diving again.

SCUBA diving is an activity that defies our bodies’ natural mechanisms, so it is important that prepare our bodies for the challenge. Maintaining an average degree of fitness is instrumental in ensuring ability. Eat well, and try to stay hydrated. Don’t get liquored up the night before a dive, and make sure you get adequate rest. A body that’s healthy and always ready to dive will never cramp your style!

Photos via Lindsey_KramerBrandi Jordan

Comments

  1. I wear proper fins…

  2. Stay physically fit and hydrated….

  3. Leave the wife at home during that time….. oh…wrong cramps?

  4. Drink lots of orange juice or eat bananas……they have potassium that prevents cramps.

  5. 50/50 gator aid & water !!

  6. I eat a lot of bananas and swim with my fins in the pool as often as possible

  7. Major off season workout program.On the dive day I drink alot of water…and strech before hitting the water

  8. I make a banana or coconut water an integral part of my breakfast…~knock on wood~ I haven’t had any cramps while diving, to date.

  9. Good multi vitamins & lots of water before-hand. Bananas are a good idea too.

  10. Alert your dive buddy, use them to stretch against. Above all: DO NOT PANIC!

  11. Stretch calves b4 dive!!

  12. Just relax and take a moment to stretch it out, no biggie!

  13. Drink powerade throughout the day,I can spend atleast 6hrs in the water on courses without a cramp

  14. Stretch the day before the dive and pre-dive.

  15. You grab you fin and pull it toward you

  16. stretch, eat bananas or avocados or something with potassium and grab the fin and pull toward me….however it doesn’t happen very often since I bought and use the scubapro split fins!

  17. Bananas are not allowed on most dive boats due to superstition. It takes 24 hours for the potassium from a banana to be absorbed in to the body anyway. Eat them the day before a dive. :)

  18. I use a half teaspoon of rehydration powder mixed with a tube of vitamin water in 20 0z. of water. bought the rehydration powder on ebay cheap and the vitamin water packets at walmart. long days in the water dont bother me much.

  19. Yeah,… hydration, diet and mineral deficiencies all contribute to cramps….overall health. even if your not a diver, read this article…it pertains to everyone……cramps are painful and really suck!

  20. All the above!

  21. Thank you for giving me excellent things to pass on to dive buddies!

  22. A banana at breakfast, and one after each dive.

  23. Get a hard soled bootie. My wife used to get toe cramps all the time. I read that a hard soled bootie keep the toes from working to much and lets the legs do the work. We are leaving Bonaire tonight after 2 weeks an she might have gotten 6 minor cramps after 30 dives. A HUGE accomplishment.

  24. Yea, banana’s! what a great invention!

  25. Drink more water. Remember that you reall dehydrate when you are in the water. You lose the free liquid in your system aaaaaaaaand that causesthe sodium in your system and the free iquid to get out of balance. Therefore cramps. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and you will most likely avoid those cramps.

  26. I get cramps in all those places – all can be debilitating and scary, as any movement can set it off again. I’ve found that hydration, stretching before each dive help.

  27. having read all the responses, I was supprised to see so many half ass replies. Yes some common exercise is helpful. The dietary comments were sad. Everyone who has delt with cramps knows to eat banannas. In truth there are better fruits to eat. Cantalopes top the list,( http://www.umassmed.edu/uploadedFiles/SourcesDietaryPotassium.pdf ) This source also shows other dietary sources for Potasium. A well ballanced diet can help solve a miriad of health issues as well as something as simple as cramps.

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