What Causes Leg Cramps: Relief & Treatment

What Causes Leg Cramps: Relief & Treatment

A cramp in the leg (sometimes called a ‘charley horse’), is an unexpected muscle spasm.

Muscle cramps and spasms sometimes happen when the muscle suddenly contracts. This usually occurs in the calf, the hamstring, and the quadriceps. Leg cramps most often occur at night and last just a minute or two, but they can last longer.

The actual cause of leg cramps is largely unknown, but some possibilities include:

  • Tired muscles
  • Too much strenuous exercise
  • Not enough hydration
  • Overweight
  • Imbalance of electrolytes
  • Medications, such as prednisone

Leg cramps are most common in adolescents and senior citizens. Pregnant women also have a tendency to develop leg cramps and muscle spasms. Some prescription medicines can cause muscle spasms as a side effect.

Can leg cramps be prevented?

Probably not, but here are a few strategies that may help:

  • Eat foods that contain calcium and magnesium
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Do warm-up stretches prior to exercising.
  • When a leg cramp strikes, the best thing to do is to rub the muscle gently.
  • Having a hot shower before sleeping can also prevent leg cramps at night.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking water balances out the electrolytes in the body
  • Eat foods that contain calcium and magnesium
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Do warm-up stretches prior to exercising

Relief

When muscle spasms occur you may get some relief by massage, by placing ice on the muscle, or by warming the muscle.

In most cases, self-care measures are fine for controlling muscle cramps, but these spasms can also signal a medical issue, so if you experience them frequently consult with your doctor.

Leg cramps are more common in young (adolescent age) and older (over 65) patients.

Most of the time, no apparent cause for night leg cramps can be identified. In general, night leg cramps are caused by muscle fatigue. It is also seen in patients who begin a new exercise regime.

Remember, muscle cramps and spasms happen when the muscle suddenly contracts. Leg cramps most often occur at night and last just a minute or two, but they can last longer. This usually occurs in the calf, the hamstring, and the quadriceps. in general, night leg cramps are likely to be related to muscle fatigue or to beginning a new type of exercise. Most of the time, no apparent cause for night leg cramps can be identified.

It is important to drink plenty of water to maintain a balance in electrolytes, and eat foods that contain calcium and magnesium, and do warm-up stretches prior to exercising.

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