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Leg Cramp Remedies

Leg cramps frequently occur when you are sleeping.

Stretching is a good remedy for leg cramps. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Stretching is a good remedy for leg cramps.

Leg Cramp Remedies

Leg cramp remedies mainly include stretches people can do before bed to prevent involuntary muscle spasms, though there are some dietary recommendations. Many people experience leg cramps at night, as they fall asleep or wake up. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people who experience leg cramps do not have anything to worry about.

If it the condition is temporary and goes away quickly, there is no reason to notify a doctor. However, if the cramping is painful, frequent and drawn out, patients should visit a doctor immediately. The same is true for those who have recently come in contact with lead. If nighttime leg cramps are severe enough to disrupt sleep, a doctor's appointment might be in order.

Leg Cramp Causes

Leg cramps may be caused by chemical imbalances of the blood, including:

  • Too little calcium
  • Too little potassium
  • Too much phosphorus
  • Low blood sugar

In addition, the Mayo Clinic notes that leg cramping is associated with a host of conditions that tend to cause chemical imbalances, including alcoholism, cirrhosis, Type 2 diabetes, kidney failure and diarrhea, among other things. Patients taking diuretics may get muscle cramps if they lose vital minerals or too much fluid. Cholesterol-lowering statins are also known to sometimes cause muscle injuries.

However, this is not to say that otherwise healthy people who get leg cramps should panic and assume they have a serious condition. Most of the time, there is no obvious, direct reason causing leg cramping to occur. The cause may be as simple as dehydration, in which case people should drink plenty of water. Over-exercising, which puts stress on the muscles, is also known to cause muscle cramps.

Preventing Leg Cramps

Drinking water and other fluids throughout the day can help prevent leg cramps at night. So too can eating foods high in potassium, including bananas, broccoli, sardines and salmon. Those who suffer from leg cramps might be overtaxing their muscles, which is why it is important to wear shoes that have proper padding and support. Those who stand for long periods of time on the job might benefit from a rubber mat to decrease the muscle stress caused by standing on a concrete floor.

Hospital patients confined to bed for long periods of time may experience muscle cramps, which they can try preventing by bending and straightening their legs 10 times, twice a day. They can also use a bed cradle to lift bedding away from the feet and legs. This strategy can also work for people who are not hospitalized -- simply loosening the bedding at the foot of the bed might do the trick.

Activities that Prevent Leg Cramps

Before going to sleep each night, a few minutes of riding an exercise bike may loosen the leg muscles, which could prevent cramps. This may also be followed up by some stretches aimed at the leg muscles. Usually, cramps strike the calf muscles, located on the back of the leg, below the knee. One simple calf stretch involves extending the leg and pointing the toes toward the knee.

Self, a fitness magazine, recommends standing with the arms extended and palms pressed to the wall. One leg extends backwards, while the front leg stays in a loose bend -- foot flat on the floor. The stretch can also be performed by sitting with one leg extended out and the other bent. The bent knee is pulled toward the body by the toe, which is pulled inward.

The University of Maryland Medial Center recommends a stretch for people experiencing thigh cramps. With one leg on the floor, stretchers lift the foot of the opposite leg behind them and hold it, keeping the knee pointed toward the floor. People who stretch to prevent leg cramps should bear in mind that the goal is to make the muscle limber, rather than strain it. Therefore, there is no reason to go into a deeper stretch than is comfortable, or hold the position for longer than 30 seconds.

Relieving Night Cramps

People who wake up in the night or cannot sleep due to night cramp pain can try taking a warm bath to relax the muscles. Some of the stretches outlined above to prevent cramps may also help relieve them. If possible, walking around a bit might ease spasms. Massages may loosen muscle tension either with the hands or by rubbing the affected area with an ice cube. Jiggling the leg can also be effective. This is done by holding either side of the thigh or calf between two palms and gently moving the muscles back and forth.

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