Ever been startled from sleep by Charley horse in the dead of night? Leg cramps occur when your leg muscles contract without warning. You will experience shooting pain in the leg that can momentarily occur and disappear. Although, the areas that are susceptible to the pain can be any non-specific section of the leg, the commonest epicenter of pain is the calf muscles. The cramps can be felt as far as feet and thighs. Whilst the cramp is non-lasting and dissipating on its own, the pain can be tormenting and your legs may feel the tender for hours to come. Most leg cramps incidences are known to occur during the night while sleeping. It is prominent among those who do strenuous task in warm conditions. The muscles having cramps will be momentarily incapacitated due to the stress and pain acting on it. It is usually treated with sufficient care and some home remedies. In this article on home remedies for leg cramps information has been given on the causes, symptoms and easy techniques by which you can get relief from the discomfort.
Do not wait if you have experienced the following symptoms, visit a doctor immediately.
- Muscle weakness
- If you notice sudden swelling, redness.
- Reoccurring more frequently
- Worsens due to stressing exercises
- No improvement in the condition after acquiring the cramps.
The usual causes are attributed to the overuse of muscles, straining the muscles, staying dehydrated, or resting in an uncomfortable posture for a prolonged time.
These are some underlying conditions that contribute to the pain.
Cutting Of Blood Supply
When the blood carrying arteries are constricted, the flow of blood to the leg is diminished and that will cause the cramps. These types of cramps will usually subside on its own, when there isn’t stress in the leg (i.e. when you stop intense form of exercise).
When the nerves located in the spine are compressed, you will experience cramps in the leg. The pain intensifies when you walk restlessly. The onset of the condition is usually delayed by attempting to walk in a flexed position (posture of a person pushing the cart).
When critical minerals from the body are depleted, you could experience the cramps. It is essential to have a right balance of potassium, calcium and magnesium. If you use diuretics to treat the high blood pressure, the mineral level in your body will decrease.
There are risk factors associated with the leg cramps. Some of the prominent causes are:
Age can take a toll on overall health. When you age, there is a gradual degeneration of muscles. This means they gradually weaken as you age. Hence, when you attempt working on physically straining jobs, you could have leg cramps.
It is one of the chief factors why athletes develop the leg cramps. When fatigue and dehydration take over, muscle cramps are inevitable.
Pregnancy can raise the risks of leg cramps. As the body is naturally in a state of stress, pregnant women have an elevated chance of developing the cramps.
4. Medical Conditions
Suffering from a list of medical conditions naturally puts you in a risk group. If you are a diabetic or suffering from nerve, thyroid or liver disorders, you could be at risk of developing cramps.
Leg cramps are usually not a serious condition. It is called as idiopathic leg cramps. However, at times it can also be an indication of secondary leg cramps which is a serious condition that you must pay attention to.
Causes Of Idiopathic Leg Cramps
Due to lesser known facts about the trigger for idiopathic cramps, the outline of the cause is built based on the assumptions and theories.
Here is a list of causes that are believed to be the reasons for idiopathic leg cramps.
- Unpredictable nerve behavior while sleeping that causes muscles to cramp.
- Consistent stress acting on the calf muscles during exercise will cause cramps.
- When the blood flow to the muscle ceases.
- When you age, your tendons become weaker. Thus, older people have a greater chance of developing leg cramps.
Secondary Leg Cramps
These types of cramps are caused by a condition that a person suffers due to underlying causes.
The weight borne by the women during pregnancy will add stress and strain to her legs.
When you attempt resting after the exercise you are more vulnerable to the cramps.
When you have weakness or stress in your nerves, you could be having peripheral neuropathy and motor neuron disease.
Your liver is like a filter that separate the toxins from the body. However, when its functionality is disrupted, toxins in the blood will build up and will lead to muscle spasms.
It isn’t uncommon to have cramps arising from the infections in the body. Bacterial manifestations such as tetanus can cause an infection that causes spasms and cramps in the legs.
Dehydration will lead to salt level dropping in the body that will raise the chance of muscle cramps.
Leg Cramps Due To Menstruation
Leg cramps in women can be caused during the stages of menstruation. It can be uncomfortable and irritating. There will be a slight disruption from your everyday routines. The stress at the onset of menstruation will be upsetting. During the peak of menstrual cycle, the leg cramps can get intense.
If you are a woman, you may have menstrual leg cramps a day before the cycle begins and may last through the duration of the cycle. Although, there are fair shares of over- the-counter medication for soothing the leg cramps, it is a better alternative to rely on the natural cures to treat the cramps.
During the peak of menstrual cycle, a woman experiences cramps due to release of certain hormones and due to loss of nutrients like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium that are critical for the proper functioning of the muscles. Leg cramps occur in the calf muscles, feet and the thigh region.
When the pain attacks the muscles become hard to touch and you may feel a strong inflammation. It may be harder than the surrounding muscles. You will feel the relief once you apply the heat and massage the area that is inflamed.
[/wptab] [wptab name=’Symptoms’]
Leg cramps occur particularly in calf muscles less frequently in feet and thighs.
Each attack can last a small duration (few seconds to 10 minutes). The pain in the thigh muscles tends to last the longest.
When you suffer the cramps, toes will be stiffer, muscles become tight and with intense pain.
There will be a sensation of tenderness in the feet after the pain has come to pass, this sensation can last a few hours.
Research points that night times are the most vulnerable (3 out of 4 suffered during the sleep)
Although, less frequent is the pain attack in the day time. (1 out of 14 incidents)
[/wptab] [wptab name=’Home Remedies’]
List of Home Remedies For Leg Cramps
Stretching will stimulate relief to your body. Stand on the edge of stairs, with the front portion of your feet in contact with the ground while the hind half of the feet hanging off the edge. Gently lower your soles a few inches lower than the normal height. Hold the pose for a few seconds and then retain the regular posture. Repeat the process for a few seconds and you will feel easiness.
Stretch sufficiently to gently exercise your soles that in turn stimulate the leg muscles. It will help you get relief from the pain. Stretching is best when you do it each night before going to bed.
2. Chamomile Tea
You can have five cups of chamomile tea in the duration for two weeks.
Take two cups of water and add three spoons of chamomile flowers.
Boil the mixture and let the combination stay for five minutes
Strain the residue after ten minutes. You can drink the mixture after addition of honey (if needed).
How Does It Work?
Glycine, an amino acid in the urine can easily relieve the cramps and muscle spasms. It also contains proteins that can act as a natural muscle relaxant.
Not Good, If:
You have a history of being allergic to pollens, chrysanthemums, asters and other family members of Asteraceae.
You are using cyclosporine or warfarin. They both have narrow therapeutic index.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Did you know Apple Cider Vinegar is rich in potassium?
Add two teaspoon of vinegar and a teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm water.
Drink the mixture for three days continuously and give intervals of two days before continuing the procedure.
How Does It Work?
Leg cramps can be caused due to low levels of potassium. ACV has high resources of potassium and this, when mixed with sodium, can regulate the fluid balance in the body.
Not Good, If:
- You have a tooth problem. The acetic acid in vinegar can erode the enamel if used to gargle or to have a drink.
- You have a sensitive skin. In case of topical application, you can mix with honey, water, juice or a pinch of baking soda.
Athletes have always used mustard as per the recommendation of sports trainers for escaping from leg cramps.
Intake of one tablespoon of mustard (yellow) at the start of the cramp can give relief.
How Does It Work?
Mustards contain neurotransmitters that can stimulate the muscles to get free from cramps. They also contain selenium, and fair amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus and manganese. It also contains acetic acid similar to vinegar making the body produce more acetylcholine,the neurotransmitter that can make muscles work.
5. Pickle juice
Two ounces of pickle juice are enough to set the leg free from cramps. However, the duration might take half an hour.
How Does It Work?
Similar to mustard and apple cider vinegar, pickle juice also contains acetic acid.
Not Good, If:
- You have a history of high blood pressure. Your blood plasma level will increase leading to further increase in blood pressure.
- If you suffer from a kidney disorder. Pickle juice contains large amounts of sodium and your kidney has to work in removing the excess salts from the body.
6. Hot Compress
Although stretches are important, if you are unable to stretch, make use of a hot compress.
Take a bowl of water and boil for five minutes.
Dip a clean washcloth in the bowl and squeeze the extra water.
Apply on the affected area, at least, five times.
Continue the process after every five minutes for duration of quarter of an hour.
How Does It Work?
You can also try the alternate method with a heating pad. The heat enhances the circulation of blood and you get relief from cramps in leg.
7. Clove Oil
A lot has been told and written about the anti-inflammatory properties of clove oil and it can be used to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Take a small cup of warm clove oil.
Apply on the affected area and rub vigorously.
Let the duration be for five minutes. You will get relief from symptoms of leg cramps.
How Does It Work?
The oils present in clove are ‘eugenol’, vanillin, beta-caryophyllene, tannins (methyl salicylate, mainly known as a painkiller; gallotannic acid), flavonoids (rhamnetin, eugenitin, Eugenin and kaempferol), and triterpenoids (stigmasterol, campesterol and oleanolic acid). The magic component, however, is eugenol, known for its anesthetic properties and hence used in dental care treatment as well.
The anti-inflammatory properties of rosemary can help in calming the inflamed muscle tissues as well reduce soreness and pain. The relaxation part is also done by this oil as it can easily penetrate the skin.
You can boil one ounce of rosemary leaves in boiling water. Boil for ten minutes.
Cover the lid and let the mixture remain for fifteen minutes.
Soak a clean washcloth in the solution and apply on the affected area consistently for 10 to 15 minutes.
Alternate method: You can also drink the mixture to get relief from leg cramps. However, this method is for prevention of leg cramps.
How Does It Work?
The herb is rich in rosmarinic acid and several volatile oils such as borneol, camphene, cineol, a-pinene and bornyl acetate. All the mentioned compounds are known to have anti-inflammatory and several health properties.
Not Good, If;
You are allergic to rosemary. You may suffer from allergic skin reactions.
The powder of turmeric is widely used to treat wounds, muscle cramps and many more (shall we call body challenges?)
You can mix two tablespoons of this powder with oil (coconut).
Make a paste and apply on the affected area.
You can rub the paste in circular motion to enhance circulation of blood and reduce the symptoms of leg cramps. The position of the leg should be upwards while doing this process.
How Does It Work?
Many of the medicinal properties of turmeric is because of the component, curcumin. It has the properties of anti-inflammatory and also displays antibacterial abilities.
Till now we have seen home remedies that can be used externally for getting relief. Now let us see some of the simple home remedies by which we can prevent leg cramps.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
If you are one who is suffering from lack of magnesium in the body, then you can get the painful symptoms of leg cramps because of electrolyte imbalance.
The pumpkin seeds are loaded with magnesium and you can include them as part of diet to prevent leg spasms that cause disturbances in your day-to-day activities. Some of the other beneficial components of pumpkin seeds are proteins, minerals such as copper, zinc; also unsaturated oils, antioxidants, and pantothenic acids.
11. Rooibos Tea
You can drink a cup of Rooibos tea to ward off cramps. The minerals in this tea are magnesium (vital for the nervous system), zinc (for metabolism), manganese and calcium (essential for manganese and calcium) and the most important one is iron (necessary to carry oxygen to all parts of the body). Magnesium is essential because it assists the body in absorbing calcium.
The polyphenols in this tea possess anti-inflammatory properties, and the two important components are nothofagin and aspalathin which assist the body to eliminate free radicals/unstable cells.
12. Raspberry Tea
You can prepare tea in the old fashioned way for raspberry also. It contains ample amounts of iron, B vitamins, magnesium and potassium. Drink this tea twice a day to ward off leg cramps.
Similarly, there are other herbs such as Butchers Broom (which increases circulation of blood) and Passion Flower (known for its antispasmodic and sedative effects).
Leg Cramp Home Remedies During Menstruation
Stay hydrated. Drink up to 8 glasses of water to stay replenished. Have coconut water and other juices that will replenish the lost minerals and help you remain hydrated.
Eat bananas to help the digestion during the menstrual cycle. Bananas will help balance the potassium and calcium in the body. It will also help replenish the electrolytes in the body. Hence, you will certainly find relief during the camping.
If you are suffering from anemia, eat foods that are rich in iron and minerals. It will take the pain off the legs and will also ease the menstrual pain too. Boost your body’s vital nutrients by supplementing the diet with iron, vitamin and calcium supplements. Clamp the cramp with lots of fresh vegetables in the diet.
In 2 glass of boiling water add one teaspoon of fenugreek seeds. Continue boiling till it is reduced to one glass. Let the fenugreek be soaked for the night. In the morning, strain the illiquid and drink it. Repeat the process every alternate day to cure the cramps.
[/wptab] [wptab name=’Valuable Prevention Tips’]
Treating Leg Cramps By Simple Natural Remedies
You can have relief from the cramps by exercising during the day. You can slowly and less vigorously exercise your leg muscles.
Since there is a relation between the dehydration and leg cramps, it is recommended to stay hydrated during the day to have relief from the pain. When you drink water before and after the exercises, you quickly replace the lost fluids and retain the vital electrolytes.
A glass of warm milk before you hit the bed will help solve the leg cramps. The milk’s calcium will help balance the deficiency that causes the cramps.
Prevention Tips For Women During Pregnancy
Having cramps during this stage is normal for women. The best way to avoid is to flex slowly the leg muscles, release the foot ten times before sleep every night. In case of regular occurrence, you can wear a support hose, and avoid standing or sitting for long duration without break.
Night Time Advice
Lie on your pillow and point your toes upwards. Make sure you soles are propped up in the air by supporting them with the pillows placed under the foot
Lie on your stomach and let your feet hang freely at the end of the bed. This is the ideal position to make sure your feet are relaxed.
Note: Keep your blankets free and loose.
[/wptab] [wptab name=’When To See A Doctor’]
If you get pain in the legs when walking and the discomfort disappears after suitable rest, consult a doctor. This can be a symptom of claudication or the narrowing of blood vessels in the legs. This condition could also happen to other blood vessels, particularly those which supply blood to the brain and heart. Kindly note, these symptoms could be the best signs of a future heart attack.
Kindly note if the leg cramps have started because of medication. The medicines could have caused a reduction of blood flow to the legs and they could damage the muscles.
When affected with leg cramps, you face tenderness or swelling in the leg, it can be a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot has formed in a vein deep inside the body. This condition needs medical attention as soon as possible. If the clot breaks and then the contents make their way to the lungs, the results could be fatal.
Natural Remedy Vs Pharmacy
The sooner you detect the sign of menstrual cramp take aspirin. It ceases the production of prostaglandins that aggravate the pain. Persistent pain can be dealt with over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen.
Take 400 mg of Magnesium supplements one hour before bedtime to relieve pain. It will relax your muscles around the arteries and will reduce the chances of cramps.