How to treat and prevent leg cramps

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A leg cramp is a sudden, uncontrolled contraction of a muscle. It can occur anywhere on the body, but is most common in the lower extremities . Leg cramps or cramps are unpredictable, as they can vary in intensity and duration and appear suddenly, but they have predictable causes that can lead to prevention efforts.

Muscles that cross two joints are more likely to experience cramps. These include the calf (the intersection of the ankle and knee), the hamstring (the intersection of the knee and the thigh), and the quadriceps (also the intersection of the knee and thigh). …

Leg cramps are also called "horse Charlie."

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Symptoms

Leg cramps generally last less than a minute, but can continue several times before the contractions fully subside. Typical symptoms include :

  • Sudden, sharp pain, most often in the back of the leg.
  • Uncontrolled muscle contraction
  • Trembling sensation in the muscles.
  • Constant pain and fatigue after muscle relaxation.

In some people, cramps mainly occur at night and can wake the patient up. More severe leg cramps can cause pain that lasts for several days after they start.

When to contact a healthcare provider

Although leg cramps usually go away on their own without treatment, see your doctor if they are severe, recur, have no known cause, or are accompanied by muscle swelling, discoloration, or weakness.

Causes

The exact cause of leg cramps is not well understood, but it is believed that there are some risk factors that contribute to :

  • Age: Leg cramps are more common in young (teens) and older (over 65) patients.
  • Muscle fatigue – Overexertion from strenuous exercise or unusual activity may be the culprit.
  • Dehydration: This includes electrolyte imbalances (specifically potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium).
  • Overweight
  • Early pregnancy : This can be due to changes in calcium or muscle fatigue due to excess weight.
  • Illness: People with thyroid or nervous system disorders are known to experience leg cramps.
  • Medication Use: Certain medications can cause muscle cramps as a side effect, including statins and corticosteroids like prednisone.

Watch out

Usually, instinct takes over when one leg stalls and you massage and stretch the sore muscle . This often solves the problem.

You may also find relief:

  • Cool the skin with a cool, damp cloth.
  • Drink more fluids

Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to relax your muscles if the spasms are severe. One drug, Robax, combines methocarbamol (a muscle relaxant) with ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, NSAID). Patients generally take it every four to six hours for no more than five days.

Robax should not be taken with alcohol or other NSAIDs; If consumed in excess, it can cause suicidal thoughts. Call your doctor right away if you have trouble urinating or vomiting, a rash, a fast heart rate, or jaundice while taking this medicine.

The vast majority of people who experience leg cramps due to sport do not require specific tests for their direct treatment. And for the vast majority of athletes, medications shouldn't be used to treat isolated bouts of muscle cramps.

A warning sign of dangerous muscle damage is dark urine, especially in the hours after episodes of severe muscle spasms or injury. It is a symptom of rhabdomyolysis , a rare condition in which damaged muscle tissue dies and enters the bloodstream, eventually damaging the kidneys.

Anyone experiencing severe muscle cramps followed by dark urine should seek immediate medical attention.

Prophylaxis

While you may not always be able to prevent leg cramps, there are things you can do to significantly reduce your risk:

  • Stay hydrated – Dehydration is known to predispose to leg cramps, although the exact cause is unknown. Drink at least three full glasses of water every day, including one before bed. Also drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your workout.
  • Choose foods wisely: Drinking electrolytes can help keep levels stable, but eating foods rich in potassium or magnesium can also help. These include bananas, sweet potatoes, beans / legumes, and avocados.
  • Stretching: Stretching can relax muscle fibers. During your workout, a good post-workout stretching routine can help prevent cramps. Make sure you stay cool after exercising and don't exercise vigorously right before bed.
  • Train gradually: avoid sudden increases in activity. The 10% rule is a good rule of thumb: never increase your weekly load more than 10% in the past week. Most athletes who have leg cramps, such as long-distance runners, tend to do so because they have increased the intensity or duration of their workouts too quickly.

Get the word of drug information

Most leg cramps are spontaneous painful sensations that go away quickly. They can be frustrating, especially if they occur at night and disrupt sleep. If your leg cramps seem more frequent or severe than usual, see your doctor.

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