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Leg Locking Up

 
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Anonymous
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PostPosted: Mon May 19, 2003 9:31 am GMT +0000    Post subject: Leg Locking Up Reply with quote

Doc,

My left leg (only occurs in the left leg) is locking up on me and has been for two years now. It all started while training for Leadville (mtb race). I canít pinpoint any cause other than over training. I have seen numerous doctors, Orthopedic, Sports, Neurologist, Vascular, to no avail. Other than maybe itís something called Compartment Syndrome but theyíre not sure because it typically only occurs in the calf muscle not both and no medical test to verify. I have taken time off, doctor recommended, but it always comes back as I increase my work out intensity. The quad and the calf muscles get so tight, I lose all my strength and the leg becomes useless, it is also quite painful. It seems to be heart rate driven, occurring within the first 1/2 mile of a mtb race or the first 5 min of a run. During a run I have to stop and stretch out both muscles before I can continue, thereís no running through it. However, I can ride through it if I slow down to a crawl. Also, it goes away immediately once I stop and usually it tends to let up with time. I'm a sport racer and the first lap is miserable but the second lap is always much better, same thing applies for running. Although there are times like Saturday, when I did a 90-mile ride and it never let up. Itís very frustrating and Iím thinking about giving up the sport I love, can you help?
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The Bike Doc
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Joined: 08 May 2003
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Location: Corpus Christi and Warda, Texas

PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2003 3:31 pm GMT +0000    Post subject: Legs Cramps Reply with quote

LRT:

I have a had a busy week in the office and on call at the hospital. I am just now getting to answering Ask the Bike Doc questions for the past week.

Your symptoms sound most consistent with one of two diagnosises. The first is peripheral vascular disease. The symptoms you describe could be brough on by a critical narrowing of your left femoral artery (the large artery in your thigh). If this is the case you do not experience the pain at lower heart rates because there is non-strenuous activity of your leg muscles. When the muscle activity goes up, you exceed the ability of the narrowed artery to provide sufficient blood flow for the oxygen and metabolic demands of the muscles and you thus develop the intense pain. When you slow down or stop, the oxygen and metabolic demands of the muscles goes down and the amount of blood that gets through is sufficient to meet the metabolic needs of the muscles and the pain abates. The medical term for this is "intermittant claudication". This malady requires either medical intervention with medications that help improve the delivery of red blood cells to the peripheral blood system or surgical intervention with reconstructive surgery to the narrowed artery. You may wish to get a MRI Angiogram to look at the arteries in your legs and abdomen to make this diagnosis.

The other diagnosis to consider is focal muscle spasms. This can occur and recur to the same muscle group(s). I experienced recurrent left calf muscle cramps when ever I pushed myself to my limits on tough climbs. The cure for this malady is regular muscle stretching exercises on a daily basis even on days you do not work out. Let me recommend Bob Anderson's book "Stretching". Additionally, you will want to gradually build up your training intensity and not progresses your intense intervals to rapidly. You should limit your hard interval training to 1-2 times per week with rest periods of light high RPM spinning at an easy pace on the day following your intense interval training.

Thanks,
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Paul K. Nolan, MD
AKA: The Bike Doc
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