Many people are familiar with this unbearable, suddenly appearing, acute pain in calves. No need to worry, a lot if the leg cramps are sporadic. Many people suffer from spontaneous, frequent or nocturnal leg cramps. We will tell you what is the cause of such torment, how to deal with them and what can be done to prevent them.
What Can Cause Leg Cramps
Muscle cramps most often plague people of middle-age or older. The most severe causes of muscle cramps are inflammation, hidden trauma, thyroid gland dysfunction, diabetes, neurological diseases. If you suspect such diseases you should get an examination by various doctors: phlebologist, neurologist and endocrinologist. As a result of treatment of the underlying disease, cramps will go away as a rule.
Muscle cramps appear at night because of the:
- excessive muscle tension;
- hypothermia because of the cold weather or ice water.
Very often nocturnal cramps are caused by the magnesium, calcium and vitamin D deficiency in your body. They are involved in transmission of the nerve impulses to muscle cells. After all, there are many factors that contribute to their loss in the body.
Reasons For the Lack of Minerals In the Body
- Use of the certain drugs that make your body slowly absorb and assimilate magnesium. For example, antacids such as Maalox or Almagel, widely used to treat heartburn, slow down the absorption of minerals and vitamins. Eufillin and Insulin contribute to the removal of this mineral from the cells of your body.
- Pregnancy. Expectant mothers need a doubled norm of magnesium and calcium.
- Stress can lead to loss of calcium, which is very important for the nervous system and for muscle relaxation.
- Diets high in protein prevent absorption of calcium from food.
- Excessive sweating. Human body loses a lot of magnesium with sweat, so most often muscle cramps occur in summer.
If at night you have muscle cramps, you need to sit up in bed, put down your feet and carefully stand on the cool floor, but not on the mat. Your body position should be as straight as possible, keep your feet together. After a few minutes, the blood circulation in your legs would be restored, and with it the normal muscle tone.
A second method: take a deep breath, hold the toes of your cramped leg and pull it up and towards yourself with force, overcoming the pain, stretching the cramped muscle. Simultaneously do rocking motion with the leg. When the spasm loosens, massage the muscles.
If you have severe spasm, pinch the hurting spot several times. After that gently massage the foot and calf with patting and rubbing movements going from the fingertips to the heel, and from heel to the knee. Then lie down, placing a folded blanket under your feet. Such posture provides blood outflow and prevents repeat of the seizures.
A warming ointment, applied to the leg muscles, might also help. You can use vodka or apple vinegar.
If the muscle cramps repeat, make moist warm compresses. Warmth reduces the nerves’ sensitivity and relaxes the muscles.
- wear only comfortable shoes;
- avoid prolonged stress on the legs;
- lower the amount of sugar and coffee in your diet;
- quit smoking;
- include products rich in calcium and magnesium in your diet;
- go to bed in wool socks;
- massage your legs regularly;
- make contrast baths for feet. Put your legs for a few seconds in cold and then in hot water. If you have varicose veins the difference in water temperature should not be too big. It is useful to add concoction of herbs with anti-convulsive action like mint, horsetail, or valerian to drinking water.
How to Replenish Mineral Deficiency
A diet combined with drug therapy helps to restore level of minerals in your body. If the leg cramps bother you too often, it is necessary to change your diet: increase the volume of food rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
Magnesium is mainly found in vegetable products. Fresh fruit and vegetables, dill, parsley, green onions, cereals, wheat bran, seaweed, beans, dates, figs, dried apricots, prunes are rich with it.
Do not forget about vitamin B6, contributing to the absorption of magnesium. It is found in meat, fish, beef liver, bananas, buckwheat, peanuts and walnuts.
Dairy products are also rich with calcium: milk, cottage cheese and cheese. Magnesium also found in cabbage, including cauliflower, broccoli, and in sesame seeds. Honey retains calcium in the body. It is advisable to drink a glass of warm water every day, adding 1 tea spoon of honey, apple vinegar or lemon juice to it.
It is particularly important to spend enough time in fresh air, since a moderate amount of ultraviolet rays contribute to production of vitamin D in your skin, which is needed for absorption of calcium.
A significant deficiency of mineral elements can be restored only with the help of food. You might need an additional calcium and magnesium therapy on doctor’s prescription.
It is important to bear in mind that the absorption of magnesium from the digestive tract is lower at night, so it is better to take it in the morning. Another feature is that absorption of magnesium occurs more efficiently during exercise other than when you lead a sedentary lifestyle. It is better to drink products with high content of calcium and vitamin D in the evening, when their absorption in bone tissue is higher.
Medicine with magnesium is contraindicated for people with adrenal and kidney failure, or possibility of thrombosis, reduced thyroid function.
In the morning, you can do the following exercises:
- Stand with your legs crossed. Lift the inner sides of your feet. After 10 seconds, return to starting position.
- In a sitting position bend your toes, count to 10, flatten them and again count to ten.
- Lift up on your toes while standing so that the heels are off the floor, then abruptly go lower them back.
The exercises should be done barefooted and each performed at least five times.
- Lift your legs sitting on a chair, and make circular motions with your feet.
- Curl your toes, and then abruptly straighten them. Wriggle your fingers vigorously.
- Make 10 slow steps in place, pulling the toes down when lifting your legs.
- Leaning both hands on the wall, step back, gradually moving away from it. Do not take your hands off the wall. Repeat the exercise several times.
- Sit comfortably on a chair and relax. Raise legs stretching out your toes so that the upper part of the leg and your feet are on the same line. Hold this position for five seconds. After that pull your toes up, spreading the toes. Hold this position for five seconds.
- Sitting on a chair, sharply step your feet one after another, placing them on the heel or on the toes.
- Holding on to the back of a chair, rise on the toes of one foot, while slightly bending and lifting from the floor the other one. Slightly sit down on one leg, hold this position for five seconds. Repeat the exercise standing on the other leg.