Creatine is an amino acid that the body can obtain in one of three ways: through creatine-rich foods such as fish, red meat and wild game; production by the pancreas, liver or kidneys; or synthetically developed nutritional supplements. Creatine supplementation is linked to a number of side effects, including a tingling sensation that may be caused by muscle cramping or by a more serious condition known as compartment syndrome. If you are using creatine supplements and experience a tingling or burning sensation in your skin, seek immediate medical attention.
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Use of creatine supplements may cause a tingling feeling in muscles that the extra creatine may cause to cramp or become unusually vulnerable to strains or tears. MayoClinic.com points out that this effect on the muscles may be due less to the extra creatine and more to creatine's reputation as a lean muscle mass builder. Creatine is a popular supplement among athletes who may exercise longer and harder than they would normally while on creatine, resulting in the muscle cramps or strains. These athletes believe the supplements will help them become more muscular and athletic. According to MayoClinic.com, clinical studies support the idea that creatine may increase muscle mass but not that it improves athletic endurance.
In rare cases, creatine supplementation causes a medical emergency known as compartment syndrome. In this condition, swelling within the muscle tissue of the leg or the arm causes a buildup of pressure that results in blood and oxygen being cut off from the affected limb. An individual with compartment syndrome will feel a burning, tingling sensation in the skin covering the muscle, as well as intense pain, a feeling of uncomfortable tightness and numbness or possible paralysis. Compartment syndrome must be treated surgically as soon as possible to avoid irreversible tissue damage to the limb.
If you choose to regularly supplement with creatine, the University of Maryland Medical Center says that 2 grams of creatine monohydrate taken daily is a safe dosage for adults. Some athletes take larger doses of creatine two to five days prior to a sporting event -- 5 grams of creatine monohydrate up to four times daily -- but there is no scientific evidence to prove that dosage level is safe for regular use, or for people not engaged in strenuous physical activity. Do not take more than the recommended dosage, and do not give creatine supplements to children or teenagers.
Creatine supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This means that any creatine pills or tablets that you purchase have not been checked for effectiveness, purity or safety. Besides tingling, consuming supplemental creatine may cause weight gain, diarrhea, high blood pressure and kidney or liver damage. It may also interfere with the function of medications like diuretics, probenicid, cimetidine and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen. Talk to your doctor about the possible dangers before using creatine.