Leg Cramps: Causes and Treatment

  • A cramp is a condition where there is an involuntary contraction of the muscle which does not relax causing a lot of pain.
  • It is a common condition affecting many people at some point in their lives.
  • It can affect a single muscle or multiple muscles.
  • Individuals who are involved in vigorous training such as athletes are commonly affected by cramps.
  • Calf muscles are more commonly affected with leg cramps.

Causes of Leg Cramps

  • Dehydration or inadequate intake of water.
  • Depleted levels of potassium and sodium (salt).
  • Tense or stiff muscles.
  • Vitamin deficiencies may also cause cramps.
  • Poor blood circulation also causes cramps.
  • Vigorous physical activities and muscle fatigue may cause muscle cramps.
  • Injury or trauma such as bone fracture can cause muscle spasm and cramps. It acts as a defense mechanism to prevent further injury.

Treatment of Leg Cramps

  • The affected muscle should be stretched and the stretch should be held for as long as is required.
  • Gently massaging the affected muscles promotes blood flow and relieves the cramps.
  • Sports massage is also helpful.
  • Stretching and strengthening helps in preventing further episodes of cramps.
  • Patient should have adequate salt intake in diet, although this may be an unlikely cause as people consume a lot of salt in processed foods.
  • Muscle relaxant medications such as cyclobenzaprine can be used for a short period to relax the muscles.

Prevention of Leg Cramps

  • Stretching and proper warm up before and after exercise.
  • Adequate hydration with replacement of electrolytes in case of exertion causing perspiration.
  • Strenuous activities leading to muscle fatigue should be avoided, especially during summer season.
  • Calcium and magnesium supplements should be taken to avoid cramps during pregnancy.
  • Adequate supports, foot wear, body positions, activity breaks etc. should be taken by an athlete.
  • The muscles should be stretched before going to sleep to prevent night or rest cramps.
  • Patient should have an adequate vitamin E intake.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2019

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