Though clinical observations and laboratory data provide some support for the neuromuscular imbalance theory of the genesis of exercise-associated muscle cramps, no direct evidence has been published. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of local muscle fatigue on the threshold frequency of an electrically induced muscle cramp. To determine baseline threshold frequency, a cramp was electrically induced in the flexor hallucis brevis of 16 apparently healthy participants (7 males, 9 females; age 25.1 ± 4.8 years). The testing order of control and fatigue conditions was counterbalanced. In the control condition, participants rested in a supine position for 30 min followed by another cramp induction to determine post-threshold frequency. In the fatigue condition, participants performed five bouts of great toe curls at 60% one-repetition maximum to failure with 1 min rest between bouts followed immediately by a post-threshold frequency measurement. Repeated-measures analysis of variance and simple main effects testing showed post-fatigue threshold frequency (32.9 ± 11.7 Hz) was greater (P < 0.001) than pre-fatigue threshold frequency (20.0 ± 7.7 Hz). An increase in threshold frequency seems to demonstrate a decrease in one's propensity to cramp following the fatigue exercise regimen used. These results contradict the proposed theory that suggests cramp propensity should increase following fatigue. However, differences in laboratory versus clinical fatiguing exercise and contributions from other sources, as well as the notion of a graded response to fatiguing exercise, on exercise-associated muscle cramp and electrically induced muscle cramp should be considered.
- Golgi tendon organ
- Muscle spindle