Leg cramps are common, and most of the time, are not cause for alarm. However, they can be quite annoying and painful- the ache lasting for hours.
When you’re in this situation, you’re willing to do almost anything to relieve the pain.
Nearly everyone will experience some sort of leg cramp during their lives- but most of them don’t understand what it is that causes them.
Even if you couldn’t care less about medical topics, taking some time to learn about what causes leg cramps and what eases them can be extremely helpful, as you can learn why specific remedies are recommended and what it is that makes them work.
What Are Leg Cramps?
You may think that your leg cramp has come on suddenly. However, most of the time, there is a clear-cut reason you’re experiencing it.
Leg cramps are a form of muscle cramp occurring on the leg, and can be a result of many things, including the following:
When you exercise too much for your body, your muscles will begin to resent this overworking and will contract themselves and not return to their normal, relaxed state. This leads to a leg cramp.
To keep this from happening, you should make sure that you take the time to warm up before exercising and don’t push yourself past your limits.
Also, take time to cool down after your workout. Keep in mind that exercise really is healthy, and you should push your limits, but know when to stop.
You probably already know that your body is made up of mostly water- muscles are no exception. Your muscles require just as much water as the rest of your body and you should make sure to provide them with it.
Make sure to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day and make sure that you’re sufficiently hydrated when you work out because you lose lots of water during the course of your workout.
It may seem like 64 ounces is a lot of water, but really, if you drink bottled water, it’s just a little over three of those 20 ounce bottles.
In some cases, it could be a vitamin/nutrient deficiency that is causing your leg cramps. Vitamins that are necessary for the proper functioning of your muscular system are A, B, D, and potassium.
Make sure that you’re providing your body with plenty of these- even if it means taking a supplement in addition to your healthy diet.
Of course, there could be other things that result in leg muscle cramps, but these are the top three. You should know that leg cramps aren’t always dangerous, but they can be very painful and all you want to do is relieve the pain when you’re in the middle of one.
You should know that there are several things you can do to naturally treat your leg cramps. However, if you suspect that your leg cramp is caused by something more serious, you should visit your doctor.
Natural Leg Cramp Treatments
There are lots of things that can cause leg cramps- exercise, dehydration, vitamin/mineral deficiencies and others. In some cases, a leg cramp could indicate a much more serious condition.
The best way to treat leg cramps is by identifying and treating the cause of your leg cramps. However, once a leg cramp has come on, you want to do whatever you can to achieve quick relief. Following are ways to treat your leg cramps once they’ve started.
When you feel a leg cramp beginning, flex your foot up and down. You may be able to prevent it from taking over by flexing your muscles.
As you flex, take a few moments to massage the back of your calf. This will help to relax your muscle and prevent a second cramp.
Once the cramp has begun, you should put your feet on the floor and stand up. If you can, walk around. Focusing on coordinating your muscle movement of your calves with your other leg muscles can help to release the cramp.
Additionally, try doing some push-ups against a chair or the wall- this will passively flex your lower leg muscles.
You may also want to try drinking a couple of glasses of water, as dehydration can be a contributor to leg cramps.
Following the Cramp
For about five minutes after the cramp, flex your foot up and down slowly. If you still notice cramping and stiffness, you should use heat to loosen your leg muscles.
You can use a heating pad or hot water bottle, or take a warm bath or shower. Heat will help the muscle to relax, which will prevent future cramps.
The heat should be a moist heat- a washcloth also works well. You may want to use a moist washcloth with your heating pad, if possible. Make sure it’s moist- not dripping.
Always remember to take time to stretch before working out and cool down after your workout. This will help to prevent muscle cramps caused by overexertion.
Also, you can consider taking supplements such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium- unless you’re taking medications for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
Since traditional medicine says that leg cramps can be caused by weak, tired kidneys, there are certain foods you can eat to improve the function of your kidneys:
green leafy veggies, fresh fruits/fruit juice, whole grains, beans, sea veggies, and whitefish.
As mentioned above, if your diet doesn’t provide it, you can take supplements to keep your body from being depleted of certain minerals. Each day, you should take the following (unless you’re on certain medications):
- 2-10 milligrams of Vitamin B
- 100-500 milligrams of Vitamin C
- 100-400 IU of Vitamin E
- 100 milligrams of calcium
- 100 milligrams of magnesium
- 1-2 capsules of EPA
Also, you should avoid sugary drinks, meat, and even dairy products until you see an improvement in your leg cramps.
The above tips will help to prevent cramps that are related to dietary deficiencies. Make sure to drink plenty of water- always stay hydrated, especially when working out.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
As mentioned, in most cases, leg cramps are not an indication of something more serious and not something that is cause for alarm.
However, if you are always getting leg cramps or if they are debilitating, you should seek medical treatment.
In cases like these, the cramps could indicate conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, cancer, and other illnesses.