Leg cramps are caused by uncontrollable muscle spasms, and they can be very disruptive. Primarily disturbing one’s sleep. Generally the cramps are more irritating than indicative of serious health issues but not always. Keep your eyes peeled for additional symptoms that my indicate more serious illnesses. If you observe any red areas on your leg which won’t go away, you should consult your doctor right away, as this might indicate a blood clot.
According to the Mayo Clinic most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as:
- Inadequate blood supply. Narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities) can produce cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you’re exercising. These cramps usually go away soon after you stop exercising.
- Nerve compression. Compression of nerves in your spine (lumbar stenosis) also can produce cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain usually worsens the longer you walk. Walking in a slightly flexed position — such as you would employ when pushing a shopping cart ahead of you — may improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.
- Mineral depletion. Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — may also deplete these minerals.
Factors that may increase your risk of muscle cramps include:
- Age. Older people lose muscle mass, so the remaining muscle may get overstressed more easily. This may increase the risk for muscle cramps.
- Dehydration. Athletes who become fatigued and dehydrated while participating in warm-weather sports frequently develop muscle cramps.
- Pregnancy. Muscle cramps also are more common during pregnancy.
- Medical conditions. You may be at higher risk of muscle cramps if you have diabetes, or nerve, liver or thyroid disorders.
My mother suffered tremendously from leg cramp, in particular, at night, when she would wake up in pain, shoot out of bed, and hop round the bedroom until the pain eased. We were driven to explore many home remedies. In those days, doctors didn’t take such things very seriously, so we tried all sorts of weird and wonderful things, many of which were about as effective as placing a knife under your bed to cut pain.
However, some ideas did seem to work, so here they are:
Make sure that you are getting an adequate supply of water during the day. You may want to add electrolytes to your water to boost your mineral count to ensure that your cramps are not related to a magnesium deficiency.
Increase the amount of salt in your diet.
These days salt is something of a no-no for many people, being implicated in raising blood pressure. However, leg and other cramps can be caused by lack of salt, so, try adding just a little more salt to your diet, especially during hot weather, when we sweat out a lot of salt. Choose the finest salt you can find – natural sea salt is good – as these kinds of salts often contain other valuable trace elements.
Limit phosphoric acid in your diet
The main culprit here is sodas, also red meat. Cut out the sodas first, as there are utterly empty of nutritional value and are in fact harmful. Organic red meat in modest quantities, on the other hand, is good for your health, so, give it up only if you need to.
Supplement magnesium in your diet
You can try to add an evening supplement of magnesium but go slow some folks experience stomach discomfort and even diarrhea if they take too much too fast.
A herbal remedy which many people find helpful is Crampbark (Viburnum Opulis). As the name suggests, it’s a specific old remedy for cramp, and you can find it in most good health food stores and online.
Another good herb is camomile tea. Drink several cups during the day, and before bed, and it acts as a general relaxant. (It may make you feel sleepy during the day though).
Gentle exercise is always a good idea. A specific exercise for leg cramp is to grasp the toes of the cramping legs and gently pull your foot towards your knee.
A good massage therapist will be able to help ease cramps by improving circulation. Also, when cramp strikes, you can feel the cramping muscle by its hardness. A good self massage will relieve the pain quickly.