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Updated by Emma Kalman on Jan 18, 2017
Headline for What to Do for Leg Cramps?
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Emma Kalman Emma Kalman
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What to Do for Leg Cramps?

A leg cramp occurs when the muscles in the leg, especially the hamstrings and calves, contract suddenly and fail to relax for a few seconds. This causes extreme pain and if it occurs while you’re sleeping, can wake you up from slumber. They can be a real nightmare.

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Addressing leg cramps

The causes of these leg cramps vary from unknown causes, excessive physical exercise to complications due to certain medications and medical conditions. Whatever the cause may be, the experience of a leg cramp is far from pleasant and since they can occur to anyone, it’s important to know what to do about it.

When you’re hit by a leg cramp, the pain will go away after several seconds. However, it will leave your muscles feeling sore for hours. To help with the healing process, this is what you can do.

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Stretching the affected muscles

Stretching the affected muscles

Depending on the muscle experiencing the cramping, there are specific exercises you can perform to keep these muscles relaxed. These shouldn’t be intensive exercises, just simple stretching of the muscles. It may be painful to perform the exercises with all the pain, but it’s advisable to do so to help your muscles heal faster.

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Applying heat or cold

Applying heat or cold

Warming your body and specifically, the muscles experiencing the cramp can relax them faster and shorten the period of pain. You can do this by taking a shower with warm water or applying a heating pad on the muscle. Afterward, lowering the temperature will help to reduce the resulting inflammation, this can be done using an ice pack pressed against the muscle.

4

Medication

Medication

Using pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs can help to relieve both the pain and inflammation, thereby speeding up the recovery. With the pain gone, you will also be able to perform the stretching exercises easily, assisting with the healing.

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Take Quinine

Take Quinine

It has been estimated that some patients have really benefited from Quinine. However, there is not enough information when it comes to the safety and long – term effectiveness.

Quinine should be taken from four to six weeks, every night before going to bed. A close monitoring is required when taking quinine for leg cramps. Quinine is not recommended for pregnant women. It is best to consult a professional in this field before taking any medication.

6

Hydrate

Drink a lot of fluids, particularly sports drinks which have electrolytes to help the body recover lost minerals. Not only does this help to address the current problem, but keeping yourself hydrated will also prevent future cramps from occurring.

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Preventing future leg cramps

When muscle contracts suddenly leading to a muscle cramp, the muscle cells become inflamed and may be vulnerable to cramps in the future.
To avoid this experience, there are certain measures you can take.

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Stretch adequately before exercise

Stretch adequately before exercise

While exercise may be good for keeping your muscles toned, most people forget to stretch before starting the exercises. Stretching gets your muscles ready for the physical activity allowing them to contract and relax freely. Without adequate stretching, the muscle fibers remain inflexible leading to tears and inflammation which can cause cramps.

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Check for underlying causes

Check for underlying causes

Most people will only experience muscle cramps once in a while, but others will have them several times. These recurrent episodes of muscle cramps are a sign of a possible underlying condition sparking the involuntary contractions.

Leg cramps can be caused by:
• Medications like diuretics which lower potassium, statins that lower cholesterol, antipsychotics, steroids and birth control pills
• Medical conditions like thyroid disease, kidney disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, peripheral arterial disease, cirrhosis, Sarcoidosis, Addison’s disease, etc.
• Decreased minerals like potassium, calcium, and sodium in the blood either due to pregnancy or improper diet
• Alcoholism.
The above causes can be determined by a doctor through certain tests. By knowing the underlying cause, proper care can be provided.

Remember that in most of the cases, muscle cramps don’t indicate a serious underlying condition. So, there is nothing to worry about. However, people over the age of 65 have an increased risk for leg cramps.

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Leg Cramp Facts

Leg Cramp Facts

• Leg cramps mostly affect the calf muscles.
• Pregnant women and people over the age of 65 have a higher risk for leg cramps.
• Leg cramps usually occur while sleeping.
• Leg cramps can be a real nightmare.
• Leg cramps usually last for a couple of minutes.
• The pain following leg cramps can last up to 24 hours.
• Leg cramps usually are of no medical significance.
• Dehydration can lead to leg cramps.
• Alcoholism can lead to leg cramps.
• Leg cramps can be a sign of various medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid gland disorders, etc.

Always consult a doctor before taking medication or talk to a professional to find a solution to your leg cramping. If you are in need of a specialist you can visit Pain Physicians NY.