Leg cramps can occur at any time but they typically tend to strike at night. They can range from a mild stiffness in the calf to a full spasm of the leg accompanied by extreme pain. Because leg cramps come on suddenly with no advanced warning, it isn't always possible to treat them as something that builds up gradually like a headache. There are steps that can be taken to help curb leg cramps and make them less severe.
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Things you need
- Comfortable shoes
- Healthy diet
Drink more water. Dehydration is responsible for many ailments, leg cramps included. Try to take in six to eight cups of water a day to keep muscles supple and hydrated. Foods high in water content are a great option too. Try to eat more fruits like watermelon and leafy green vegetables.
Increase daily intake of calcium and potassium. These two minerals aid in the body's processing of fluids (see step one). For added calcium, try low fat yoghurt and fat free milk to get a big dose of daily calcium. Vegetables like kale, broccoli and bok choi are also loaded with calcium. Potassium rich foods include bananas, meats, poultry, fish and avocados. Also, try taking a calcium supplement before bed.
Light exercise before bed can help stimulate blood flow in the legs. Take a short walk or ride a bike a short distance to engage the leg muscles before laying down. Stretch calves before bedtime.
Wearing shoes with ample arch and ankle support can help keep the body in proper alignment during the day.
Leg cramps that are brought on by walking can be frustrating and embarrassing. For both night leg cramps and walking leg cramps that can't be improved with diet and exercise, see a doctor. Prescription drugs are available to treat extreme cramps when nothing else helps.
Tips and warnings
- A leg cramp is an uncontrolled contraction of the muscle. Relief from the cramp occurs when the muscle is lengthened back to its normal state. Stretching the spasm should be done slowly to avoid tearing the muscle.
- When in the middle of a leg cramp attack, don't point your toes. This will only cause the spasm to become worse.
- Quinine was once regularly prescribed for leg cramps. It is commercially available as an ingredient in most brands of tonic water. There is some question as to the safety of quinine so check with your doctor before trying tonic water as a solution.
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