Preventing and Treating Leg Cramps

Nearly everyone has felt the sudden, painful clamp of a leg cramp, and those who haven’t felt it while they’re awake have probably felt it while they’re asleep. Nighttime leg cramps, which consist of spasms and tightening of muscles usually in the calf, thigh, or foot, are a nightmare of a wake-up call that can last several minutes and often come out of nowhere. There are many different causes, many of them having to do with depleted minerals in the blood or overuse of legs. Exercising, exposure to cold temperatures, blood flow problems, lack of potassium/calcium in the blood, dehydration, and kidney or thyroid disease can all cause cramps.

How can I prevent leg cramps?

  • A warm shower or bath to relax leg muscles, or a heating pad used prior to sleep, can prevent them.
  • Conversely, if heat doesn’t work, sleeping with an icepack on the calf can also help.
  • Staying hydrated while exercising, stretching before bed, and drinking lots of water prior to sleeping is the best way to prevent cramps.
  • Consume a multivitamin or diet rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Many doctors will also prescribe medicines for muscle cramps if they are recurring and too painful to stop naturally.

What are the symptoms of a leg cramp?

  • Sudden painful grip around the calf (or sometimes thigh) that seizes the muscle for up to a minute.

How do I get rid of leg cramps?

  • Once they occur they are tough to stop, but stretching the foot up while massaging the calf can help shorten the cramp. Identifying when one is about to start is the best way, and often can be avoided if the foot is stretched up in time.
  • An analgesic balm can help relieve pain and loosen the muscle, putting an end to cramping.
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