A muscle or leg cramp is a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. You’re sound asleep, and suddenly, without warning, you wake up with a paralyzing stiffness in your leg. it’s always a common pain that happens when a muscle gets involuntarily stiff and can’t relax. Although the intense pain may go away, muscle soreness may remain for some time.
Anyone can get these types of cramps, but they are more common in people who are middle-aged or older. They may also occur quite frequently in teenagers and in people who exercise at night. What causes leg cramps? Leg cramps may be brought on by many conditions such as;
Pregnancy – Cramps may occur because of decreased amounts of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the later months of pregnancy. Leg cramps during pregnancy also may be due to the increasing pressure of the uterus on certain nerves, fatigue, or reduced circulation in the legs from the pressure of the baby on blood vessels.
Dehydration – Water comprises 75 percent of muscle tissue and helps them contract and relax easily. So, not maintaining proper levels of hydration during the day may be one of the big causes of leg cramps at night.
Nutritional Deficiency – Any kind of imbalance of mineral electrolytes—sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium—in the body can contribute to nocturnal and exercise-associated cramps. These minerals are responsible for both nerve impulses and muscle contractions, and keep your muscles working smoothly.
Prolonged Standing – Standing on a hard surface for a long time as well as standing while wearing high heels or poorly fitting shoes can contribute to muscle fatigue or overexertion. This in turn can cause leg cramps at night.
Also, sitting improperly or putting your legs in awkward and uncomfortable positions when sleeping can contribute to nocturnal leg cramps.
Wrong shoes – A less-known cause for muscle cramping: your shoes. “You want to look at your shoes, especially if you changed from flats to heels. This also can cause cramps.
Hypothyroidism – A low level of thyroid hormones can indirectly contribute to muscle weakness as well as calf cramps at night. Also, it often increases inflammation that may be contributing to your muscle cramping and pain. The thyroid hormones can affect calcium absorption and utilization. Calcium deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, numbness, pain and cramps.
– Exposure to cold temperatures, especially to cold water.
– Other medical conditions, such as blood flow problems (peripheral arterial disease), kidney disease, thyroid disease, and multiple sclerosis.
How to stop a leg cramp?
- – If it happens while you are lying down or in bed, try to simply stand up and put some weight on the affected leg or foot.
Stretch and massage the muscle.
– Take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. A heating pad placed on the muscle can also help.
– Try using an ice or cold pack. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack.
– Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
– If your doctor prescribes medicines for muscle cramps, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
– Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps.
Here are some tips to prevent leg cramps:
– Stay well hydrated
– Stretch each day, especially before you exercise
– Limit or avoid alcohol
– Eat a balanced diet that includes natural sources of calcium, potassium and magnesium
– Increase your activity level gradually