Leg cramps have afflicted more than half the population at one time or another. They are slightly more common among women than men. Common causes of leg cramps include dehydration, potassium deficiency, prolonged sitting, pregnancy, muscle fatigue and even some medications. Age is also a factor with older people experiencing leg cramps more often than younger ones. Sometimes the discomfort is prolonged, others it lasts only a few seconds. Regardless of when or how leg cramps happen most people can agree that they are a big pain. Try the following strategies to reduce or eliminate leg cramps.
- Avoid prolonged sitting while working, reading or watching television. Instead, get up and move around for a few minutes each hour.
- Gentle movement such as walking and yoga can help with leg cramps.
- Exercise regularly to promote circulation. Be sure to stretch as you cool down.
A leg cramp is just a muscle contraction, so anything you can do to help the muscle relax will bring relief.
- Keep a heating pad handy and apply as needed. Don’t have a heating pad? A warm cloth will do.
- Massage the area – better yet ask your spouse or partner for a nice rub down.
- Invest in a foam roller. They don’t cost a lot but they help a lot with muscle spasms and soreness.
Visit your doctor
- Particularly if your leg cramps are frequent or bothersome you may want to determine if a potassium or magnesium deficiency is the cause. The problem could be helped just by taking a multivitamin.
- Also, talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking that could be causing the problem. Read labels carefully to understand any side effects and make changes as appropriate.
- Choose shoes that offer good support.
- Take an over the counter pain reliever if discomfort is prolonged.
- Loosen your bed cover when leg cramps strike at night.
- Ask your doctor if vitamin B-12 can provide relief.
Often the pain of leg cramps is compounded by the problem of insomnia when the spasms strike at night. If frequent leg cramps are keeping you awake the search for a solution is even more urgent. Although leg cramps are generally harmless, chronic insomnia has been associated with health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If at home remedies like massage and movement don’t provide relief consult your healthcare provider for advice.