Leg cramps are sudden unintended contractions of one or more leg muscles
that persist for more than a few seconds and are so painful that they usually
wake up the patient. It is very painful and results in the inability to use
the muscles affected by the cramps. Often these pains occur just as you're
falling asleep or just as you're waking up and so it is also called night
leg cramp or nocturnal leg cramps. Usually the pain is most felt in the back
of the lower leg (calf) or the sole of the feet. Although it can affect anyone
at any age, it usually occurs in middle-aged and aging adults and is more
common in muscular people and athletes.
It is not clear what exactly causes leg cramps. It could originate due to the
muscles or the nerves of the muscles. Bone structure disorders can sometimes
bring leg cramps and sometimes you can overexert the muscles. Remaining in seated
position or standing on hard floors for extended periods as well as uncomfortable
postures that affect the blood circulation can all lead top leg cramps.
One often overlooked cause of leg cramps is dehydration and health conditions
such as hypoglycemia, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, anemia, thyroid and endocrine
disorders and use of some medications such as diuretics, quinine, diphenhydramine
hydrochloride (Benadryl), muscle relaxants and verapamil hydrochloride. Pregnant
women and dialysis patients often suffer from leg cramps.
Treatment of leg cramps may include increased intake of minerals including
calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium (if your salt intake is low or if you
perspire a lot). Vitamin B-12, Vitamin E and Vitamin C supplements is also necessary.
Gabapentin has been reported to be very useful in treatment of leg cramps.
Stretching your calves for several minutes and applying heat can increase
blood flow and relieve some of the pain. Don’t be afraid to use the leg
that has the cramp. Massage the affected muscles and stretch those muscles by
moving your toes outwards and inwards.
Return to top