Leg Cramps

Leg Cramps

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Have you ever awakened from a good night’s sleep with a muscle cramp or what some people call charley horse? If you have, then you know it’s not a stroll in the park. It’s more likely a stroll on Barbed Wire Lane! It could hurt and depending on where the cramp is, it’s down right debilitating. For instance, if your foot cramps up, you have one or two toes reaching up towards the moon and your foot thinks it’s going in the opposite direction towards the center of the earth. You know what I mean.A muscle cramp is a strong, painful, involuntary contraction or tightening of the muscle. Night muscle cramping usually are sudden spasms, or tightening of the muscles in the calf part of the leg. However, muscle spasms can also occur in the thigh or foot. The most common muscles to contract are muscles crossing two joints. An example of a muscle that crosses two joints is the calf. This muscle crosses the ankle and the knee. Another example is the hamstring. It crosses the knee and the hip.No one really knows what causes muscle cramps though there are many theories about it. One of them is dehydration. Dehydration means the body has lost too much fluid and has not replaced it. Not having enough potassium, calcium, and other electrolytes in the bloodstream is important one. Over exercising or injury to the muscles could also be a reason. There could possibly be other medical reasons such as
blood flow problems, thyroid problems, kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis. Certain medicines can also cause cramping. An example of one is a diuretic medication such as Lasix. The diuretic may be pulling fluid off the body and the person goes to the bathroom so much that their system becomes off balance. They might lose too much potassium, that is why most doctors require their patients to have a potassium supplement pill when on a diuretic medication. Remember, low potassium may be the culprit for muscle cramping.

I must add that you should be careful when buying a potassium supplement from the health food store. Even though it’s an over the counter supplement, it could still be dangerous when over used. Signs of potassium overdose can be confusion, a tingling sensation in the arms and legs, low blood pressure, weakness, an irregular heartbeat, and even coma.

Everyone wants to know how to prevent muscle cramps, especially those nasty night ones. First, let’s talk about what to do when you are actually in the middle of one and then we’ll talk about how to possibly avoid getting them. If you find yourself in the middle
of a cramp, try to stretch and massage the muscle. You could try to take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. Some people get relief from a heating pad. You could also try using ice or a cold pack. And of course, over the counter medications could be used.

Now lets consider trying to prevent the cramps all together. Diet may be a good start. Try to eat foods that are high in calcium such as cheese, kale, almonds, yogurt, broccoli, and kelp. You may want to consider foods high in magnesium such as nuts, legumes, and green leafy vegetables. Foods that are high in potassium are bananas, avocados, nuts, strawberries, apples, carrots, fish, potatoes, meat, tomatoes, just to mention a few.

Always remember to drink plenty of water. Some electrolyte drinks can be used too. However be careful of the artificial colorings and the added sugar. It may be helpful to dilute the drink down to half water, half electrolyte drink.

The following is a list of supplements, minerals, and homeopathy which I learned about while in medical school. Please let me make it clear, if you are experiencing continual muscle cramping, please see your doctor. I am in no way trying to treat anyone by giving out this information.

Magnesium 250 mg twice a day is considered a muscle relaxer.
Calcium 500 mg twice a day. Calcium is required for muscle and nerve relaxation.
Potassium 300 mg a day may help but get advice from your doctor.
Homeopathic Magnesia Phosphorica is a remedy and can be found at the local health food store.
B vitamins may be helpful. The B vitamins can become depleted due to the stressful lives we live.
Protease enzymes may reduce muscle aching and inflammation.
A good massage not only feels great but it can be excellent to work the cramps out and
help improve circulation.
Stretching can be important.
Seeing your local chiropractor, osteopathic doctor, or a naturopathic doctor in order to check the spinal alignment may also help.

I hope some of these ideas can help you make a plan. Getting a better sleep is important. Sleep helps the immune system to function better and that is the start of keeping a healthy body.

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