Leg cramps, usually, aren’t a serious problem, but they do cause a lot of pain. When you have them during the night while in bed, you surely, want to get rid of them.
Also known as a Charley horse, leg cramps are characterized by sudden pain or tightness in the voluntary muscles of the leg.
These muscles are mainly the muscles in the area of the calf, hamstring, or quadriceps, and though the cramp usually only lasts a couple of seconds, it can take several minutes for the muscles to relax. When the muscles relax the pain of the cramp subsides.
Causes of Leg Cramps
Leg cramps are caused by muscles in the leg suddenly and forcefully contracting. Researchers believe this sudden forceful contraction is caused by the hyperexcitability of the nerve controlling the muscle.
What causes this hyper excitability is unknown. However, there are some things that are contributing factors to leg cramping, even if they do not directly cause the cramping. These contributing factors include:
- Dehydration: Substantial loss of body fluid can lead to muscle contractions.
- Heavy exercising: Heavy activity results in an increased loss of body fluid, thus leading to dehydration and muscle contractions.
- Muscle fatigue: Strenuous activity fatigues muscles, which increases the chance of leg cramping.
- Injury: Torn muscles, shin splints, tendinitis, and stress factors may cause cramping as the body attempts to avoid further injury by cramping the muscles around the injury and decreasing the range of motion of the injured body part.
- Mineral deficiency: Deficiency of calcium, potassium and magnesium can cause over excitability of the nerves of the muscle.
- Poor blood circulation: Associated with leg cramping, and with night leg cramping in particular.
- High weight: Heavier individuals are at greater risk of muscle fatigue and poor blood circulation, which may lead to muscle cramping.
- Medication side effects: Some medications may cause muscle cramping. Side effects of all medication should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist.
- Position of Feet: Night cramps, in particular, may be influenced by the position the feet are in during sleep. Toes pointing down cause the calf muscle to shorten, thus resulting in cramping if this position is held for too long.
Home Remedies for Leg Cramps
1. Yellow prepared mustard.
Mustard and pickle juice have acetic acid, which helps produce acetylcholine, a stimulant for your leg muscles. Take a spoonful of mustard or a few ounces of pickle juice to help prevent leg cramps.
2. Apple cider vinegar is rich in potassium.
Mix one teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons (10 ml) of vinegar in a glass of warm water and drink this mixture.
3. Apply pressure.
Press the middle of the cramp with your fist or your thumb until it hurts. Hold the pressure for about fifteen seconds. Usually the cramp will release.
Sometimes the easiest way to do this is by walking, if you can, especially if the cramp is in the thigh. If the cramp is in the calf, press the foot upward, either with your hand or by pressing it against the floor.
5. Pinching your upper lip.
Halfway between the top of the lip and the nose is a trigger point. You need to squeeze this area between thumb and forefinger for about thirty seconds. Although gramma never heard of trigger points, she swore that this would relieve the leg cramp at least half the time.
6. Sit in a tub of warm water.
A warm bath will help relax the muscles and relieve the cramping.
7. Prevent leg cramps with bananas and potatoes.
If you have leg cramps often, Grandmother advised to eat bananas and potatoes daily to avoid them. We now know that low potassium levels can cause leg cramps, and bananas and potatoes are high in potassium.