Leg cramps can occur in many different situations. Some people wake up with severe leg cramps; others get them while trying to go to sleep. Athletes sometimes experience leg cramps while working out or simply walking.
What is a Leg Cramp?
A leg cramp is basically an involuntary contraction of a muscle. It can be an agonizing pain. When a muscle contracts or spasms and a knot forms in the hamstring, quadriceps, foot or calf this is a leg cramp also known as a Charlie horse. This can last for only a few seconds or up to an agonizing 15 to 20 minutes.
What Causes Leg Cramps?
The most common cause of leg cramps is dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. You are missing important elements that allow your body to function properly. Basic elements that can cause leg cramps when they are deficient in the body are potassium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. These are the elements we lose through sweat.
How to Prevent Leg Cramps
To prevent leg cramps you should stretch routinely to help relax the fibers in your muscles. Always warm up your muscles prior to beginning a workout or jogging. Even if you simply plan a walk around the block, do a few stretches and warm your muscles first, cold muscles cramp easily.
To prevent leg cramps you need to stay hydrated. This means drinking plenty of fluids before, during and even after exercise. There are sports drinks on the market that can replenish electrolytes that may be lost during workouts, but do not overuse these as too much of these elements can be harmful. Believe it or not but drinking pickle juice is equivalent to those expensive sports drinks for electrolyte replacement.
To prevent leg cramps eat a healthy nutritious diet. If you have frequent leg cramps you may want to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to help plan a diet that will benefit you. You need to have the correct amounts of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. When you plan to have more physical activity than normal you will need to increase your electrolytes and fluid intake prior to working out. Also remember to replace those you use during your workout.
If a leg cramp does occur even after you have done all you can to prevent leg cramps you need to gently massage it out. Once the cramp has relaxed, soak in a hot bath and stretch the muscle gently.
Leg cramps can be very painful and severe. If you have made the lifestyle changes recommended to stop them without success you will need to talk to your doctor so he can determine if there is an underlying medical condition responsible for your leg cramps.