How to get rid of muscle cramps in your legs
Mar 06, · To avoid leg cramps in the future, drink plenty of fluids before and during exercise. Muscles need fluid to contract and relax properly. Prevent tightness by warming up your leg muscles before you work out with some walking in place or a slow jog. After each workout, stretch out your leg muscles for a few minutes. Aug 01, · A leg cramp is a sharp, sudden contraction or tightening of the muscle in the calf, which usually lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. If a cramp does hit, you can ease it in the moment by.
The muscles in your legs are made up of bundles of fibers that alternately contract and expand to produce movement. A cramp is a sudden, involuntary contraction tightening of one of these muscles, typically in your calf. Cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. They can be mild, or intense enough to wake you out of a sound sleep. What stops cramps in legs sudden, painful muscle spasm in the leg is called a charley horse, which legend has it is named after baseball player Charlie "Hoss" Radbourn, who reportedly suffered from frequent cramps back in the s.
Sometimes there is no obvious cause for a cramp. Exercise is a common trigger, especially after you've exercised for a long period of time or in the heat. Muscles that are tired or dehydrated become irritated and are more likely to cramp up. A deficiency of electrolytes such as magnesium or potassium in your diet can lead to more frequent cramping, by preventing your muscles from fully relaxing. The risk of a cramp increases during pregnancy, possibly because of circulatory changes and increased stress on the muscles from a growing belly.
Age is another factor, with cramps becoming more frequent in middle age and beyond. Older muscles tire more easily, and they become increasingly sensitive to lower fluid volumes what does la2 mean in arabic the body. Cramps can also be a side effect of medicines like statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol.
You should be able to treat a cramp on your own, but see a doctor if your cramps are severe, you get them often, or you have other symptoms like numbness or weakness along with them. Rarely, cramps can signal a problem with the spine, blood vessels, or liver.
Most cramps will go away on their own within a minutes. Massaging or gently stretching the muscle will help it relax. Heat is soothing to tense muscles. Apply a heating pad or warm wet washcloth to help loosen up the muscle. To avoid leg cramps in the future, drink plenty of fluids before and during exercise.
Muscles need fluid to contract and relax properly. Prevent tightness by warming up your leg muscles before you work out with some walking in place or a slow jog. After each workout, stretch out your leg muscles for a few minutes.
Do another set of stretches before bed if you tend to get cramps while you sleep. Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content.
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How do I stop a leg cramp? Try forcefully stretching the affected muscle (for example, stretch your calf muscle by flexing your foot upward). Jiggle your leg, massage it, or force yourself to walk. It might also help to apply ice or heat – use a heating pad or take a warm bath. Nov 16, · Other at-home remedies for leg cramps include: applying ice or cold packs wrapped in cloth to sore or tender muscles for minute intervals applying heat pads Author: Jennifer Huizen. Sep 13, · Leg cramps at night, or nocturnal leg cramps, are often linked with overuse or underuse of the muscles, but medical conditions may also be the cause. Learn about causes and treatments here.
Leg cramps are a common and usually harmless condition where the muscles in your leg suddenly become tight and painful. It usually occurs in the calf muscles, although it can affect any part of your leg, including your feet and thighs. Read more about the symptoms of leg cramps. Leg cramps can occur for no apparent reason, known as idiopathic leg cramps, or as a symptom or complication of a health condition, known as secondary leg cramps.
During a cramp, your muscles suddenly contract shorten , causing pain in your leg. This is known as a spasm, and you cannot control the affected muscle. The cramp can last from a few seconds to 10 minutes. When the spasm passes, you will be able to control the affected muscle again. Read more about the causes of leg cramps. Speak to your GP if your leg cramps are affecting your quality of life; for example, if you have frequent leg cramps or they are interfering with your sleep.
Your GP will ask about your symptoms and examine your legs and feet. They may also ask if you have other symptoms, such as numbness or swelling, which may be a sign that you have secondary leg cramps caused by an underlying condition.
In this case, you may need further tests, such as blood tests and urine tests, to rule out other conditions. Most cases of leg cramps can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles. Exercising your legs during the day will often help reduce how often you get cramping episodes. To stretch your calf muscles, stand with the front half of your feet on a step, with your heels hanging off the edge.
Slowly lower your heels so that they are below the level of the step. Hold for a few seconds before lifting your heels back up to the starting position. Repeat a number of times. Medication is usually only needed in the most persistent cases where cramping does not respond to exercise. Treating cramps that occur as a result of serious liver disease can be more difficult.
Your treatment plan may include using medications such as muscle relaxants. Read more about treating leg cramps. If you often get leg cramps, regularly stretching the muscles in your lower legs may help prevent the cramps or reduce their frequency. You might find it useful to stretch your calves before you go to bed each night see stretching advice above or try this post-exercise calf stretch.
A leg cramp is an episode of sudden pain in the muscles of the leg caused by an involuntary contracting shortening of the leg muscle. Cramps can last from a few seconds up to 10 minutes. Thigh muscle cramps tend to last the longest.
During a cramping episode, the affected muscles will become tight and painful and the feet and toes will be stiff. If you only get leg cramps occasionally, it is not a cause for concern and a medical diagnosis is not required.
A visit to your GP will only be necessary if you get leg cramps frequently, or if they are so painful they disrupt your sleep and you are unable to function normally the next day.
There are two situations where leg cramps may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition. In these circumstances, contact your GP for advice immediately. If this isn't possible, contact your local out-of-hours service or call the NHS 24 '' service.
The cause of leg cramps is sometimes unknown idiopathic. In other cases, there may be an underlying condition or another identifiable cause. Although the cause of idiopathic leg cramps is unknown, there are a number of theories about what might cause idiopathic leg cramps.
These include:. Also, tendons naturally shorten over time as a person gets older, which may explain why older people are particularly affected by leg cramps. Tendons are tough bands of tissue that connect muscles to bone. If your tendons become too short, they may cause the muscles connected to them to cramp. Secondary leg cramps are caused by an underlying condition or another identifiable cause. Certain medications have been known to cause leg cramps in a small number of people.
Contact your GP if you think your medication may be causing your leg cramps as your dosage may need to be adjusted. Never stop taking a prescribed medication unless your GP or another qualified healthcare professional who is responsible for your care advises you to do so. For example, secondary leg cramps that are related to liver disease are caused by high levels of toxins in the blood which trigger muscles spasms.
Therefore, muscle relaxants can be used to help prevent your muscles from going into spasm. If the cause of your legs cramps is unknown primary idiopathic leg cramps , a combination of exercise and painkilling medication is usually recommended. Most cases of leg cramps can be treated with exercises. There are two types of exercise that you can do:.
To reduce your risk of getting leg cramps in the future, you should do exercises to stretch the affected muscles three times a day. For example, if your calf muscles are affected by cramps, the following exercise should be beneficial:.
For the best results, you should repeat this exercise three times a day, including one session just before you go to bed. If you have leg pain that persists after an episode of cramping, an over-the-counter painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help reduce the pain. Quinine was originally designed as a medication to treat malaria. Subsequent research has found that it can also be moderately effective in reducing the frequency of leg cramps.
Thrombocytopenia is a rarer but more serious complication of quinine. It occurs when the number of platelets in your blood falls to a dangerously low level.
Platelets help the blood to clot which means people with thrombocytopenia are at increased risk of excessive bleeding such as:. There have been a number of reported cases of people dying from thrombocytopenia after taking quinine to prevent leg cramps. Never take more than your recommended dose of quinine. An overdose of quinine can result in permanent blindness and death.
Due to these small but potential risks, your GP will only prescribe quinine if there is evidence that the potential benefit of treatment outweighs the risks. In these circumstances, you may be prescribed a four-week course of quinine.
After this time, if you have not gained any benefit, the treatment will be withdrawn. If you experience any of the side effects listed above, stop taking quinine immediately and contact your GP.
Home Illnesses and conditions Muscle, bone and joints Conditions Leg cramps. Leg cramps See all parts of this guide Hide guide parts About leg cramps Symptoms of leg cramps Causes of leg cramps Treating leg cramps. About leg cramps Leg cramps are a common and usually harmless condition where the muscles in your leg suddenly become tight and painful. After the cramping has passed, you may have pain and tenderness in your leg for several hours.
Three out of four cases occur at night during sleep. What causes leg cramps? Causes of secondary leg cramps can include: pregnancy exercise certain types of medication, such as statins medicines that help lower cholesterol levels liver disease During a cramp, your muscles suddenly contract shorten , causing pain in your leg. When to see your GP Speak to your GP if your leg cramps are affecting your quality of life; for example, if you have frequent leg cramps or they are interfering with your sleep.
Treating leg cramps Most cases of leg cramps can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles. Stretches To stretch your calf muscles, stand with the front half of your feet on a step, with your heels hanging off the edge. If you have secondary leg cramps, treating the underlying cause may help relieve your symptoms. Leg cramps that occur during pregnancy should pass after the baby is born.
Read more about treating leg cramps Preventing leg cramps If you often get leg cramps, regularly stretching the muscles in your lower legs may help prevent the cramps or reduce their frequency. The following night-time advice may also help: If you lie on your back, make sure that your toes point upwards — placing a pillow on its side at the end of your bed, with the soles of your feet propped up against it may help keep your feet in the right position.
If you lie on your front, hang your feet over the end of the bed — this will keep your feet in a relaxed position and help stop the muscles in your calves from contracting and tensing. Keep your sheets and blankets loose. Symptoms of leg cramps A leg cramp is an episode of sudden pain in the muscles of the leg caused by an involuntary contracting shortening of the leg muscle.
Most leg cramps occur in the calf muscles and, less commonly, in the feet and thighs. After the cramps have passed, you may have pain and tenderness in your legs for several hours. When to seek medical advice If you only get leg cramps occasionally, it is not a cause for concern and a medical diagnosis is not required. You should also visit your GP if the muscles in your legs are shrinking or becoming weaker.
When to seek immediate medical advice There are two situations where leg cramps may be a sign of a more serious underlying health condition. You should seek immediate medical help if: The cramps last longer than 10 minutes and fail to improve, despite exercise.
Cramps develop after you come into contact with substances that could be toxic poisonous or infectious, for example, if you have a cut that is contaminated with soil, which can sometimes cause a bacterial infection, such as tetanus, or after being exposed to elements such as mercury or lead. Causes of leg cramps The cause of leg cramps is sometimes unknown idiopathic. Idiopathic leg cramps Although the cause of idiopathic leg cramps is unknown, there are a number of theories about what might cause idiopathic leg cramps.
These include: abnormal nerve activity during sleep which causes the muscle of the leg to cramp excessive strain placed on leg muscles, such as when exercising, may cause the muscles to cramp at certain times a sudden restriction in the blood supply to the affected muscles Also, tendons naturally shorten over time as a person gets older, which may explain why older people are particularly affected by leg cramps.
Secondary leg cramps Secondary leg cramps are caused by an underlying condition or another identifiable cause. These include: pregnancy: the extra weight of pregnancy can place strain on the leg muscles, making them more vulnerable to cramping exercise: leg cramps are often experienced when resting after exercise neurological conditions conditions that affect the nerves in your leg muscles : for example, motor neurone disease or peripheral neuropathy liver disease : if your liver stops working properly, toxins will build up in your blood, which can make your muscles go into spasm infection: some types of bacterial infection, such as tetanus, can cause muscle cramps and spasm toxins: in some people, high levels of toxic poisonous substances in the blood, such as lead or mercury, can cause leg cramps dehydration : in some people, low levels of water in the body can lead to a drop in your salt levels, which can trigger muscle cramps Medication Certain medications have been known to cause leg cramps in a small number of people.
Treating leg cramps If the cause of your leg cramps is known, it may be possible to treat the underlying cause. Exercises Most cases of leg cramps can be treated with exercises.
There are two types of exercise that you can do: exercises you do during an episode of cramping to relieve the pain and stop the cramping exercises you do during the day to reduce how often you get leg cramps The two types of exercises are explained below. Exercises during cramps During an episode of leg cramp, stretch and massage the affected muscle.
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