You go to stand up, and a searing pain in your calf muscles makes you sit right back down. You didn’t injure anything — could a leg cramp be your culprit?
Nearly everyone experiences this agony from time to time — but what causes the issue? Here are eight possible causes of leg cramps and how you can find relief quickly.
1. Muscle Fatigue
Although it sounds ironic, when your muscles get tired, they sometimes create more work for themselves. In a way, you can relate to their plight — anyone who has ever had to redo a job after rushing to complete it can.
As your muscles get tired, they go through their oxygen supply, which causes waste to accumulate. The tissue tries to clear it by spasming, which doesn’t feel good. The process also alters the transmission of nerve signals, which can create cramps so painful, they keep you awake at night.
The only cure for muscle fatigue is rest. If painful cramps keep you from getting your beauty Zzz’s, try elevating your legs if that’s where the worst pain occurs. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can likewise offer respite.
If you ever experienced heat cramps, it might have happened because you didn’t take enough water with you on a humid-day hike. However, dehydration-related leg cramps can strike any time of year, not only during the summer months.
When your body loses excess fluid, it can’t cool itself efficiently. The hotter you get, the more likely you are to experience cramps — if you practice yoga, gentle yin might feel fantastic while heated Bikram could cause agony.
The remedy for this leg cramp-cause is to drink up. Go VSCO and decorate a water bottle with all of your favorite stickers — express yourself. You can also use an app to remind you to sip if you tend to go long hours without a break.
You can’t wait to hold your little bundle of joy. That doesn’t keep some aspects of pregnancy from proving downright painful. Morning sickness isn’t your only concern.
Your growing baby can put pressure on the nerves running to your legs, causing them to cramp. Additionally, weight gain and changes in blood circulation during pregnancy contribute to the problem. Finally, if you don’t get adequate nutrition, your body could filter off vital nutrients to nurture your developing child, leaving you with aching calves.
4. Mineral Deficiency
Have you ever wondered why sports drinks proliferate on store shelves? It isn’t because everyone is an athlete — although wishing they were probably helps manufacturers sell more products.
Deficiencies in electrolyte minerals are among the top causes of leg cramps. That’s because your muscles and nerves are sometimes called the body’s electrical tissues — these nutrients react with water to create the necessary impulses for movement.
To remedy this cause of leg cramps, evaluate your intake of sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. While many Americans get plenty of salt, they may fall short when it comes to the others. Try to eat whole foods high in these nutrients, like deep, leafy greens and low-fat cheeses.
5. Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that causes your body to attack the myelin sheath coating your nerves. As a result, your body doesn’t carry out your brain’s messages the way that it should. When the signals misfire, they can cause painful cramps.
Treating this cause of leg cramps requires ongoing consultation with your doctor. While medications exist to treat multiple sclerosis, finding the most effective one for you often involves considerable trial and error.
6. Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease results in a narrowing of the arteries in the leg, stomach and head. It most commonly strikes your lower extremities and can cause painful lower leg cramps.
Age, smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes all increase your risk of developing the condition. Fortunately, a combination of lifestyle changes and medications can treat the underlying disorder and decrease your symptoms.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between your joints starts to erode. This form of the disease frequently strikes individuals over 40, although it, fortunately, doesn’t always worsen with age.
Cramps can occur when pain signals from your knee alter the pathway running to your brain. Your brain might send mixed messages, telling your muscles to contract. Massage may help to loosen this type of cramp.
Finally, some medications increase your nighttime leg cramp risk. Many of them have nothing to do with neuromuscular disorders. For example, many inhalers for asthma and COPD may up your chances of waking up, grasping your calf muscle in agony.
If your symptoms develop after you switch medications, talk to your doctor. They may have alternative remedies that can help without adverse effects.
Kick the Ache by Understanding These 8 Causes of Leg Cramps
Now that you know these eight causes of leg cramps, you can take measures to prevent and treat them. Here’s to kicking pain to the curb.