Tag Archives: painful muscle cramps

DISCLAIMER:I cannot tout my approach to the management of this disease as safe or appropriate for others. Speaking only for myself, I know that exercise is the only effective way I can manage the symptoms of McArdle’s disease.  It really is up to you to be your own advocate and be as informed as you can. Ask questions. Learn about the human body. Take care of yours.

The symptoms of McArdle’s disease – exercise intolerance, muscle cramping and injury, weakness – often drive people with the condition away from an active lifestyle. It’s only natural to stop doing something that causes you pain.

The irony is that the more sedentary we are, the more potentially debilitating this disease.

The amazing machines in our muscles risk injury much sooner as we grow older, and our metabolism overall starts to slow, and our basic resting levels of energy start to fall off.

Our metabolism is a very efficient ballet of interdependent chemical reactions. Feedback from one activity is the cue that drives the rate of another. When energy demands on muscles are low, the body makes less energy available to them.

So how do you effectively manage the symptoms of a disease that makes exercise a dangerous endeavor? For me, the answer is by exercising.

More specifically – the kind of exercise that really sucks to undertake with McArdle’s disease:

  • Walking up inclines or stairs
  • Jogging for short spells, or sprinting for even shorter ones
  • Swimming
  • Lifting weights
  • Hitting a heavy bag
  • Planks

Any of these can result in some serious McArdle’s-related injuries and send you to the hospital. Most people with the disease wouldn’t dream of undertaking these or recommending them to anyone else (I certainly would not.)

And yet, my symptoms are most manageable only when I train my muscles to face such stimulus. I don’t want to go to the hospital, and that’s why I exercise every day. It works wonders for my ability to climb stairs, or walk through the mall with a friend without getting hypoglycemia. 

It doesn’t apply to everyone, we all have different problems coincident with this metabolic disease of ours. Some of us are in wheelchairs, some of us have diabetes. What the “training stimulus” looks like really has to be relative to your unique baseline.

But so too is physical fitness for “normal people.” They share the same amazing metabolic systems that up- and down-regulate in real time to conserve resources and operate as efficiently as possible. “Normal people,” too, get weak when they don’t train. “Normal people” get sick and hurt their muscles when they over-do it.

People with McArdle’s disease have to train and work hard to reach a capacity for exercise that most people take for granted. We may be reminded of this each time we do something as mundane as folding laundry, or tying our shoes, or putting air in our car’s tires.

For me, managing McArdle’s and avoiding injury exercise is by no means something I think I’ve figured out. It is a work in progress, and I am sure it always will be. (Again, something I think we McArdle-ers have in common with “normal people.”)

 

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce the Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
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DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regimen if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.  If so, you’re like me.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods. ?
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Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
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Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Relevant links:

Warmup Exercises Can Dramatically Reduce Your Chances of Injury from McArdle’s Disease
 

DISCLAIMER: This is not professional medical advice, but simply anecdotal information shared by an individual with McArdle’s disease.  Seek guidance from your informed physician before beginning an exercise regiment if you have McArdle’s disease.

If you have McArdle’s disease, whether you were diagnosed recently or years ago chances are you have known for a long time that something was quite wrong with your muscles.  Perhaps as a result you’ve come to avoid exercise altogether or find yourself in a more sedentary lifestyle than you would like.

Ironic as it may seem, exercise itself may be in fact the most effective treatment I’ve encountered for coping with McArdle’s disease.  The physiological responses of the body to exercise, which include:

  • Release of growth hormone by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth of bone, muscle and connective tissue
  • Improved circulation
  • Improved natural regulation of blood glucose levels
…seem to make “blasting” a lot less likely (“blasting” being the painful cramping that can also cause elevated blood protein levels, as well as a high fever and a day in bed in agony.)  It stands to reason that the body’s response to exercise works to “stave off” or partially mitigate the circumstances from which injury-causing failure episodes arise.
Consider the following.  Improved muscular and connective tissue strength equip the body with a higher “taxing” threshold for brief anaerobic motions such as squatting, bending over, lifting things from the car or to a shelf, or even carrying laundry.  Improved circulation equips muscle cells individually with more ready access to blood-borne substrates such as fatty acids and blood sugar.  Blood sugar levels, of course, through exercise and prudent dietary choices are less likely to experience devastating peaks and valleys.  (People with McArdle’s disease are probably very attuned to their blood sugar levels, as only brief moderate exercise allows them to experience exactly how much or how little energy their muscles have access to at the cellular level.)
Speaking for myself, I know that if I get up from my desk and go sprint around the yard with my dog, I’m likely to feel it and have to stop lest I incur a muscle injury.  However, there are days when I have extended endurance and feel markedly stronger which are preceded by periods of diligent, careful exercise involving extended warm-up periods.  
 
Why Warmup is So Important for People with McArdle’s Disease
 
Once I’m warmed up, I’m able to jog longer or run up and down the basketball court a little easier, or climb more stairs, or move from one airport terminal to another and keep up with my companions.  I can do this without the fear that failure – which, if the limits are pushed, is ALWAYS inevitable – will result in a painful “blasting” episode.  As such, this exercise I’m able to experience without anxiety about falling down or cramping is likely as good for my body as it is for any normal person.  Walking, jogging, hiking, biking – all in moderation, using common sense, with careful warmup – I can pull them off.

Sources: