Leg cramps, also called Charley horses, are painful spasms that are usually localized in the gastrocnemius and soleus, which are the calf muscles. These spasms can be so painful that you wake up with a jolt when it happens. While it commonly occurs during the night, it can likewise strike during the day. Leg cramps can last anywhere between a couple of seconds and 10 minutes. But why do they occur exactly?
The Most Common Causes of Leg Cramps
Causes of leg cramps range from dehydration to being sedentary. There can be very serious causes such as damage to the kidneys, notes an experienced chiropractor in Chandler, Arizona. In general, leg cramps are typically caused by vigorous physical activity and muscle trauma. They can also be due to the leg being positioned awkwardly for a long time, like when you’re sitting in a car or watching a film in a movie theater. Taking certain medications such as steroids, diuretics, and birth control pills can cause leg cramps. Cold weather and a lack of calcium, magnesium, or potassium in your diet can also result in leg cramps.
How to Alleviate Leg Cramps
Once you feel a cramp setting in, the most effective way to ease it and prevent its progression is to move your leg, either by shaking it, jiggling it, or walking around. You can also try rubbing your calf muscles vigorously and pumping your leg to alleviate the pain. Some individuals also swear by applying cool compresses to the affected area, applying analgesic patches or balms, and taking pain medications for relieving menstrual cramps. However, in order to lessen or keep leg cramps at bay, the most important thing you can do is to strengthen your calf muscles.
Proper Stretching Is Key
Your musculoskeletal system peaks by age 20. Although it still remains in its peak for another 20 years, it will eventually start breaking down around age 40. When this happens, your muscles become weaker and less flexible. With this in mind, once you hit 40, or better yet even before then, it’s extremely vital that you perform regular exercise and do stretches daily to strengthen your muscles. These are not only to prevent leg cramps but also maintain overall health
How to Prevent Leg Cramps
For many people, prevention of leg cramps is as easy as doing proper stretching and making certain changes to their lifestyle. Eat food with sufficient water and rich in calcium, such as milk and cheese. You should also eat certain seeds and nuts, salmon, and leafy greens. Your food should also be rich in magnesium, such as lentils, nuts, and quinoa, and potassium, such as bananas, potatoes, broccoli, and spinach. These kinds of food can help prevent leg cramps or reduce their frequency in many people.
Note that leg cramps should disappear in a couple of minutes. This means that if you have recurring cramps, you need to consult your doctor. This is particularly important if you experience leg cramps multiple times daily since they might be a warning sign of a serious condition, which you need to address.