A muscle cramp is a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. A muscle cramp is also called a charley horse.
Nighttime leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf. The muscle cramps can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot. They often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up.
What causes muscle cramps?
The cause of muscle cramps isn’t always known. Muscle cramps may be brought on by many conditions or activities, such as:
– Exercising, injury, or overuse of muscles.
– Pregnancy. Cramps may occur because of decreased amounts of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the later months of pregnancy.
– Exposure to cold temperatures, especially to cold water.
– Other medical conditions, such as blood flow problems (peripheral arterial disease), kidney disease, thyroid disease, and multiple sclerosis.
– Standing on a hard surface for a long time, sitting for a long time, or putting your legs in awkward positions while you sleep.
– Not having enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals in your blood.
– Being dehydrated, which means that your body has lost too much fluid.
Taking certain medicines, such as antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids.
In case the muscle cramps you notice are not a signal that there is a presence of some more serious health issue, you can rely on few different natural methods to cure them.
Try to relax the muscle that’s cramping. Stop performing any activity that may have induced the cramp and lightly stretch the muscle. Hold the stretch and massage the muscle.
2. Acupuncture or Massage
Acupuncture can help to relax the muscles and get to the core of the problem. If needles aren’t your thing, try getting a massage on a regular basis to keep muscles from getting too tight.
3. Epsom Salt Bath
Many coaches, therapists and personal trainers recommend this method for cramping. Take a warm bath with Epsom salts — It will provide magnesium to the outside of your body, and the warm water will help to sooth your muscles.
4. Drink More Water
In case you didn’t know, dehydration is one of the leading causes of muscle cramps. Of course, drinking a whole bottle of water won’t provide instant relief, but if you drink sufficient amount of water on a daily basis then this practice will definitely improve your health condition.
5. Remain Active
Going for a walk can help to eliminate cramping due to the contracting and relaxing of the leg muscles. Keeping muscles from remaining still for too long and becoming stiff can help prevent cramps.
In case you don’t experience leg cramps related to certain health condition frequently, you can also include higher amounts of magnesium in your daily diet. Seeds and nuts are loaded with this essential nutrient. Consult a doctor if you want to take supplements.
Also, you can make magnesium oil and rub it on your legs before going to bed. To make it, boil half a cup of distilled water and then add half a cup of magnesium chloride flakes. Once dissolved, remove from heat and let the solution cool. Store it in a spray bottle and spray five to ten times on each leg before going to bed.
What to Do During a Cramp
The remedies listed above are preventative measures. So what is one to do while experiencing a cramp? Leg cramps during the night can be extremely painful and even feel paralyzing. Try to remember these few tips to help with the pain.
– Get up from the bed if you can and try to move the leg; walk around to stimulate blood flow.
– Massage the muscle in circular motions.
– Make sure your sheets, blankets, and bedtime clothing are loose and breathable.
– Sit on the floor and extend your legs out in front of you. Flex your feet at the ankles and point the toes. Then use your hands to pull your feet and slowly stretch the muscles.