Have you ever been running or about to fall asleep when the muscles in your calf suddenly tighten and become extremely painful? You’re having a leg cramp. Most people will experience a leg cramp at some point in their lives. If you suffer from muscle cramps, there are some things you can do to stop the pain and prevent future leg cramps from occurring.
Causes of Leg Cramps
Leg cramps are caused by muscle spasms, involuntary contractions or tightening of one or more muscles. These spasms can last a few seconds to several minutes. Not only can you get cramps in your legs, you can also have them in your feet, thighs, arms, hands, abdomen, back and along your rib cage.
While we don’t know 100% what triggers these muscle spasms to occur, here are some possible causes:
- Poor blood circulation in the legs
- Overuse of the calf muscles while exercising
- Compression of the nerves in your spine
- Muscle fatigue
- Calcium, magnesium and/or potassium deficiency, especially during pregnancy
- Not stretching before exercise
- Certain medical conditions, such as peripheral atrial disease, kidney disease and multiple sclerosis
- Medication side effects. Some medications, like diuretics, statins and steroids, can cause muscle spasms.
How to Stop a Leg Cramp while It’s Occurring
When you get leg cramp, there are several things you can do to help ease them. You may need to try several to find out what works best for you.
- Massage the muscles.
- Do stretches to work out the cramp. Sit or lie down with your leg out straight and pull the top of your foot toward your head. Stand and put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly.
- Use a heating pad to increase blood circulation to the muscle.
- Ice the muscle.
- Take a bath in Epsom salts to help ease the tension.
How to Prevent Leg Cramps from Occurring
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of future Charley horses:
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and other fluids.
- Limit or avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Eat more food rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium.
- Talk a daily multivitamin.
- Stretch your muscles properly before and after exercise, and at bedtime.
- Gradually increase your amount of exercise.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications.
If you frequently have leg cramps, they’re severe, or they interfere with your sleep, you should talk to your doctor. They could signal a medical problem that requires treatment.
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While custom orthotics can’t help stop or prevent a charley horse, ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics can help reduce the stress and strain on your feet and legs. ezWalker® Custom Orthotics properly support your feet for better bio-mechanical alignment from the feet up through your legs, hips and back. Every step you take throughout the gait cycle will not only be controlled, but the shock will be absorbed more efficiently. Therefore, your foot and leg pain will be reduced, so you’ll experience greater pain relief.
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Note: If your pain persists, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Persistent pain can indicate a more serious condition.
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cover photo credit: 123RF / maridav