Leg cramps are some of the painful and uncomfortable experience of the body. It may happen even if the person is awake or asleep. With such pain and discomfort, the person may be interrupted in his daily tasks and focus on the cramps. The following are the causes, signs and symptoms, and home remedies for leg cramps.
Leg cramps have several causes. According to Mayo Clinic, leg cramps are caused by muscle overuse, muscle strain, holding a position for a prolonged period, and dehydration. As per the publication, some cramp episodes are related to an underlying medical condition like inadequate blood supply secondary to arterial narrowing, nerve compression (especially the nerves in the spine or lumbar stenosis), and mineral depletion due to reduced potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels in the bloodstream, which is secondary to diuretics or medications that promote urination. People who have higher risk for leg cramps include older people, athletes, pregnant women, and those with diabetes, thyroid, liver, and nerve disorders.
Signs and Symptoms
A leg cramp presents sudden pain in the leg muscles due to an involuntary contraction or shortening, as per NHS UK. According to the publication, the affected muscles will tighten and become painful during the episode, in addition to the stiffness of the feet and toes. Following the cramp episode, pain and tenderness can be felt in the legs for several hours. As per the publication, it is vital to seek medical consult if the leg cramps happen often or if they disrupt the activities of daily living. Also, medical consult is advised if the leg muscles is noticeably shrinking or becoming weaker.
Pain medications and exercise are part of the treatment regimen for leg cramps. As supplemental management for the condition, the following home remedies can also be done safely.
Exercise is one of the remedies for leg cramps. According to NHS UK, most leg cramp episodes can be managed with movement of the legs. As per the publication, the person may apply the exercise during the episode to relieve the pain and stop the cramping or during the day to prevent cramps.
During a leg cramp episode, the person stretches and massages the affected leg muscle; he straightens his leg and lifts his foot upwards, bending it at the ankle so that the toes point towards the shin. Another way is to walk around on the heels for a few minutes. To prevent cramps, the person may do exercises thrice a day to stretch the involved muscles. The person may stand about one meter away from a wall. Then, he leans forward with his arms outstretched to touch the wall while keeping the feet soles flat on the floor; the person holds the position for five seconds before releasing. The exercise is also done for five minutes.
Another way to manage leg cramps is through a hot soak. As per Health Line, a hot soak provides relief of symptoms, either with or without Epsom salts. As per the publication, dry heat may be used by starting a heating pad on the lowest setting and increasing heat if the current temperature does not soothe the muscles. However, heating pad is not the best choice for people with diabetes, spinal injury, and other medical conditions that have high risk of burn due to decreased heat sensation.
Pinching the Lip
Pinching the lip also helps relieve leg cramps. According to Dr. Donald Cooper, as cited by Dr. David Williams’ official website, the remedy works 90 percent of the time. The person just has to take a good hold on the upper lip while maintaining constant pressure. As per the publication, the cramping will fade within 20 to 30 seconds, but the duration may be longer.
Leg cramps is a painful experience and it may affect a person’s activities of daily living. Thus, it is best to be familiar with its remedies and if unrelieved, it is essential to consult medical consult from a doctor for proper assessment, planning, intervention, education, and evaluation.