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.
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