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Causes and Treatment for Leg Cramps

Chandramita Bora
The term 'muscle cramps' refers to an involuntary contraction of the muscle, where the muscle tightens but doesn't relax. Provided here is some information on the causes of leg cramps.
Muscle cramps are characterized by an involuntary contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles. More often than not, cramps affect the calf or foot muscles. At times, the hamstrings or the quadriceps muscles could get affected.
Under normal circumstances, the contraction of muscles is followed by the relaxation of the muscles. In case of a cramp, muscle contraction is not followed by relaxation. Under such circumstances, the affected individual experiences pain when the muscle tightens. Cramps generally last for a few seconds.

Contributing Factors

➻ A deficiency of vital minerals like calcium, potassium, or magnesium could cause over-excitability of the nerves that stimulate leg muscles. This could cause muscle spasms.

➻ Lack of exercise, poor diet, or certain medical conditions can have an adverse effect on blood circulation in the legs. This can cause involuntary muscle contractions.
➻ Muscle fatigue could occur after a vigorous workout, which in turn could cause cramps. Such workouts can cause substantial fluid loss. If one doesn't stay well hydrated, it could give rise to muscle cramps. Overexertion of calf muscles while exercising, insufficient stretching before exercise, or exercising in the heat could also be contributing factors.
➻ Sometimes, cramps may be a symptom of peripheral artery disease (a condition where the fatty deposits in the arterial walls constrict the arteries, thereby affecting the flow of blood).
➻ Electrolyte imbalance is another factor associated with this condition. Diuretics and drugs recommended for hypertension could deplete the level of potassium and calcium in blood, which in turn could cause cramps.
➻ A deficiency of vitamin D can have an adverse effect on the absorption of calcium.

➻ It has been found that deficiency of B-complex vitamins could play a significant role in the development of leg cramps.

➻ Compression of nerves could also be a contributing factor.


➻ Drink plenty of water to replenish the loss of body fluid which might occur due to intensive workouts. This is to avoid dehydration.

➻ Follow a healthy diet to ensure that the body's needs for calcium, potassium, and magnesium are met.
➻ Perform stretching exercises before a workout. This will prevent muscle fatigue.
➻ Gently massaging the affected area in a circular motion can provide relief from the pain and discomfort associated with the condition.

➻ Application of heat can help provide relief from cramps.
➻ Follow a balanced diet that includes vegetables and fruits that are rich in calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Include tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, broccoli, citrus fruits, and cantaloupe in your diet.
The aforementioned measures can help alleviate the symptoms in case of occasional cramps. However, medical assistance must be sought if cramps occur frequently and are accompanied by severe pain.
It is important to seek medical attention at the earliest, as cramps could be a symptom of conditions such as diabetes, anemia, hypocalcemia (low level of calcium in blood), hypokalemia (low level of potassium in blood), thyroid disorders, kidney diseases, etc.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.