Leg Cramps - Causes & Remedies

Almost everyone experience leg cramp. If you haven’t already, you will at some point of your life. If a cramp hits, you can ease it in the moment by stretching the muscle gently. However, you might need to take a closer look at their many potential causes.

Mineral deficiency

Lost electrolytes can contribute to leg cramping. If you’re low in certain electrolytes and other minerals, that imbalance can trigger spontaneous cramping. An imbalance in sodium, calcium, magnesium, or potassium could all lead to leg cramping, sports drinks can help reduce cramps thanks to their sodium, as can eating wisely. Bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, yogurt, and nuts are rich in those muscle-friendly minerals and may ward off the deficiencies that could cause leg cramps.

Dehydration

Dehydration is another one of the classic causes.  Athletes and avid exercisers deal with cramps all the time, especially during the summer months, in the heat without enough liquid. The reason dehydration causes cramping is largely theoretical, it may be that fluid depletion causes nerve endings to become sensitized, triggering contractions in the space around the nerve and increasing pressure on motor nerve endings.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk for leg cramps, especially during the second and third trimesters. This is most likely because the odds of magnesium and potassium deficiency are higher during pregnancy, so stay hydrated and consider taking a magnesium supplement with your doctor’s approval.

Overuse

Independent of an exerciser’s hydration status, many experience leg cramping due to overuse. “If you’re going on a long run, or you’re doing a boot camp, you might experience cramping later on,” doctor says. “The nervous system is usually the culprit.” When the nerves running from the brain and spinal cord down to the muscle become overexcited, you often wind up with an involuntary cramp. Rest and stretching is extra important in these situations.

Fatigue

You may be more prone to leg cramps when you’re already overtired. You might be more lax in your diet or forget to hydrate effectively, or, if your body hasn’t had enough time to properly recover from your last bout of exercise, your muscles might already be in rough shape.

Medications

If there’s no obvious cause of your leg cramps, then you might want to take a look at any recent additions to your medication list, Dr. Sontag says. Diuretics, a class of medications used to lower blood pressure, may trigger cramps because they deplete the body of fluid and salts, he explains. Other medications that may cause leg cramps include osteoporosis drugs like raloxifene and teriparatide; intravenous iron sucrose (used to treat anemia); asthma medications like albuterol; conjugated estrogens (used to treat menopause symptoms); and pain meds like naproxen and pregabalin. Commonly prescribed statins are also associated with muscle cramps in general, he adds. Talk to your doctor if you started taking a new medication at the onset of your leg cramps; Dr. Sontag says he is usually able to find an alternative medication for his patients.

Peripheral artery disease

If your leg cramps seem spontaneous and not exercise-related, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out underlying concerns. Some, for instance, those that affect how the body moves electrolytes, can cause leg cramps. Others, like peripheral artery disease, when cholesterol clogs blood vessels in the legs, affect blood flow. PAD can trigger cramps since there may not be enough blood getting to the legs.

Multiple sclerosis

Leg cramps can also be a symptom of the nervous system disorder multiple sclerosis. Some people with MS experience spasticity, which can include a range of involuntary muscle spasms and twitches, as well as leg cramps. Spasticity might feel like a mild tightness or tingling in the muscles to some people or more severe cramping and pain to others.

Osteoarthritis

Much like overexcited nerves can cause overuse-related leg cramps, nerves that malfunction for other reasons can lead to cramping too. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is usually categorized by stiff and achy joints. But people with the painful condition may also experience muscle spasms and leg cramps. These leg cramps are usually linked to osteoarthritis of the spine, which, when severe, could lead to pinched nerves or other nerve damage.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Too-high blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes can lead to damage to the nerves in the legs, feet, arms, and hands called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This nerve damage often leads to feelings of numbness or tingling, but it can also produce muscle twitching and full-blown leg cramps when the nerves in the legs aren’t functioning properly. Diabetes treatment can help prevent any further nerve damage, but a doctor might recommend pain medication or anticonvulsant drugs to tamp down the leg cramps.

 

 

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.