What is frequent leg cramp? What are its clinical treatments and home remedies?
What is frequent leg cramp? What are its clinical treatments and home remedies? Leg cramps, also known as Charley horses, are uncontrolled spasms of the muscles in legs. Cramps are a common problem that affects muscles of thigh, calves, or feet. They often occur at times of rest or sleep.
Muscle cramps are usually experienced in the calf. In most of the cases, the cramp spontaneously resolves on its own after a duration of seconds to minutes. Leg cramps can also occur during times of pregnancy.
In this article, you'll get to know more about leg cramps, their clinical treatments, and home remedies.
What is a leg cramp?
Involuntary, localized muscle contractions occurring in the calf are called leg cramps. Typically, these cramps occur at night. It is important to note that there is still no reasonable scientific reason available for leg cramps. The pain experienced during leg cramps is excruciating. Your muscles become stiff and tight. If you try to move your leg, you feel that it is paralyzed.1
Leg cramps occur in the gastrocnemius muscle- the muscle of the calf. However, it is not necessary, and cramps can also occur in quadriceps muscle of thigh and hamstrings of the back of the thigh.
Etiologies of Leg Cramps
Very little is known about leg cramps and their etiologies. However, there are certain medical conditions and risk factors that trigger these cramps, which are listed as follows:
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Depletion of Salt
- Addison Disease
- Severe exercise
- Parkinson's Disease
- Renal dialysis
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Peripheral nerve injury
- Thyroid Problems
- Motor neuron disease
- Ruptured Baker’s cyst
- Certain drugs (including beta-agonists and potassium-sparing diuretics)
Deep Vein Thrombosis 2
Symptoms of Leg Cramps
Muscles cramps occur spontaneously without any kind of sign. First of all, you’ll experience tightening of your muscles, followed by excruciating pain. Moreover, the tightness continues to increase. You’re also going to see a lump of tissue under the skin of your calf and that is your cramped muscle.
The cramp may last from a couple of seconds to more than 10 minutes or longer.
Clinical Treatments of Leg Cramps
Usually, there isn’t need for medical treatment for leg cramps. It is because they resolve later some time without doing any harm. But there are certain medical conditions and diseases that cause leg cramping for a very long time. Such conditions need medical attention. Your doctor would help you in this regard and he might choose one of the following treatment options:
Muscle Relaxants: Muscle relaxants are very much helpful in relaxing a muscle that is unnecessarily contracting on its own. These muscle relaxants include Lioresal, Soma, and Skelaxin, etc. that are easily available at a drug store.
Rehydration Therapy with electrolytes: Most of the muscle cramps occur due to dehydrated condition along with electrolytes depletion. The doctor might rehydrate you along with vital electrolytes, which would surely help resolve the muscle spasms.
Physiotherapy: Some doctors might send you to a professional physiotherapist for physiotherapeutic procedures in order to relax your spasmodic muscle. These therapeutic techniques include stretching the muscles, and moving leg in specific angles, etc.3
Home Remedies for Leg Cramps Prevention
You can never know when a cramp is going to happen. However, future cramps can be avoided by precautionary measures and useful home remedies.
Warm-up before exercise: Studies have shown that doing a bit warm-up before exercise increases blood flow to the muscles. This then allows muscles to get more nutrients and oxygen during exercise.
Stretching calf muscles: In order to stretch your calf muscles, lean forward against a wall with one leg in front of the other. Then straighten your back leg and press your heel into the floor. This would make your knee in a bent position. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
Application of heat: Heat always soothes pain. It also relaxes the muscle by energizing it. You put your legs in a hot-water tub or apply a hot towel. Taking a hot shower might also help.
Take pain killer after muscle soring: Analgesics can also be used if your muscle remains sore after the cramping has resolved.4
Take Away Message
If you ever experience leg cramps at night, it is normal and usually not a cause of undue concern. Muscle spasms are short-lived and harmless. Generally, symptoms of a cramp will disappear in a very short time. If they don’t, simple home remedies can help prevent that cramp such as foot flexion, massaging the tense muscle, or stretching the legs. However, anyone experiencing cramps for a very long time should see a doctor. Although currently, no medications are available to specifically treat frequently occurring muscle cramps, your doctor may prescribe medications or other relevant treatments to manage leg cramps.
1. How to Stop Leg Cramps: Treatment and Remedies for Relief. https://www.healthline.com/health/pain-relief/how-to-stop-leg-muscle-cramps.
2. Young, G. Leg cramps. BMJ Clin. Evid. 2015, 1113 (2015).
3. Behringer, M., Moser, M., McCourt, M., Montag, J. & Mester, J. A promising approach to effectively reduce cramp susceptibility in human muscles: A randomized, controlled clinical trial. PLoS One 9, (2014).
4. Muscle Spasms | Charley Horse | MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/musclecramps.html.