Leg cramps are strong and painful muscle contractions that come suddenly and last for a few seconds or even for several minutes. They usually occur during the nighttime and are quite frequent and recurring. Leg cramps typically affect the calf muscles, feet and thighs.
There are number of reasons that lead to this problem such as:
• Lack of blood flow or liquid to the leg
• Heavy workout or injuries
• Exposure to cold water or cold temperatures
• Some medical conditions such as kidney issues, multiple sclerosis and thyroid disorders
• Taking antipsychotics
• Keeping the legs in an awkward position for longer period of time.
Among the most common reasons are:
• Magnesium deficiency
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for our bodies since it takes part in many body processes and its deficiency usually triggers nighttime leg cramps.
To deal with this problem you should take magnesium supplements since they provide relaxation for the skeletal muscles.
However, the best way to obtain the optimal amount of magnesium in your organism is to incorporate certain changes into your diet. For example, you have to increase the intake of nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds, Brazil nuts and almonds.
Note that in some cases, magnesium supplements may trigger negative side-effects including diarrhea or loose stool. This is an alarming sign which indicates that you should stop taking the supplements immediately.
Make sure you consult your health care provider before you opt for these supplements and seek their advice regarding their dosage and use.
Watch the video below to learn more about the common symptoms of magnesium deficiency:
• Vitamin D deficiency
Another reason for leg cramps is the lack of calcium in your body. If you have a balanced diet but you still experience leg cramps then you probably have vitamin D deficiency.
Watch the following video to find out about the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:
This vitamin is responsible for the absorption of calcium and its deficiency may lead to improper absorption. You can supply your body with vitamin D by exposing your skin to sunlight.
However, note that this not really possible in winter or in areas where cloudy weather prevails. When it comes to food, you can eat seafood and mushrooms or take vitamin D supplements either in a form of capsules or drops, but first ensure you consult your doctor.
How to prevent nocturnal leg cramps
Apart from taking the corresponding supplements and making changes into your diet, here is some extra advice:
• Exercises that you can do during leg cramps
Straighten the affected leg and lift the foot upwards. Make sure your leg is bent at the ankle so that the toes point toward your shin. Another thing you can do when a leg cramp occurs is to walk on your heels for a couple of minutes.
• Stretching exercises to prevent leg cramps
Doing some stretching exercises will certainly reduce the occurrence of leg cramps and will improve the blood flow to your legs. For example, place the ball of your foot on a ledge with the heel touching the floor.
Then, shift your weight towards the ledge and stay in that position for a couple of seconds. Go back to the starting position and rest for several seconds. Do 6-8 repetitions on each foot.
This exercise will stretch the muscles of your leg, especially your calves where the cramps usually occur. Make sure the ledge is not too high, since otherwise it can apply unnecessary pressure on your calves.
Insufficient water intake may also lead to leg cramps. This condition is usually due to overconsumption of fiber-rich foods which use up the fluids from your body.
If you suffer from leg cramps, make sure you increase the intake of water depending on the amounts of fiber you consume.
Leg cramps may be also caused by poor blood circulation. Therefore, acupuncture can help you to open up the channels through which the blood normally flows to your legs.
Likewise acupuncture, massage is also supposed to improve the blood flow to the legs. You can practice a self-massage by compressing your leg muscles.
Apply particular pressure to those areas on your leg which are tenser than others since they represent trigger points that you have to press to release the tension.
You can also place a cool compress on the leg or apply some ice cubes since the coolness numbs the pain and reduces soreness.
Leg cramps may be also a result of accumulated stress or due to mental-emotional factors. If your body is too stressed or overworked you may also experience frequent nocturnal leg cramps.
Therefore, you should try to relax both your body and mind by practicing some breathing techniques or by taking a soothing bath before going to bed. This will help you to relieve the stress and to provide healing for your body.