A muscle cramp is a strong and sudden painful involuntary contraction or tightening of one or more muscles that lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. Such a muscle spasm in leg is also called a Charley horse.Leg cramps at night 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.Though generally harmless, muscle cramps can make it temporarily impossible to use the affected muscle.
Leg cramps are idiopathic (of unknown cause) in nature. Sometimes long periods of exercise or physical labour can lead to muscle cramps. They can appear as a symptom or complication of another health condition termed as secondary leg cramps, which can be caused due to pregnancy, certain medications, mineral (potassium, calcium, magnesium) deficiency, exposure to cold temperatures, dehydration, liver disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis.
One can try to stop a muscle cramp when it happens. When you have a leg cramp, the muscles in the leg will suddenly become tight and painful. Therefore, first stretch and massage the muscle. By taking a warm shower or bath the muscle can be relaxed. A heating pad placed on the muscle might help.Alternatively, massaging the cramped muscle with ice may relieve pain.
Preventing night time muscle cramps can avoid the pain and loss of sleep.
- If one can lie on the back, keeping the toes point upwards, will help to prevent the muscle cramp. With placing a pillow on its side at the end of the bed, with the soles of your feet propped up against it may help keep the feet remain in the right position.
- If one can lie on the front, then hang the feet over the end of the bed, which will keep the feet in a relaxed position and help stop the muscles in the calves from contracting and tensing. Calf muscles cramps can thus be prevented.
- Keep your sheets and blankets loose.
Muscle cramps treatment cannot be a fixed regimen, as it has to be reviewed individually. Exercising the affected muscles can relieve most cases of leg cramps. Exercising the legs during the day will often help reduce the cramping episodes.Incase of secondary leg cramps, then treating the underlying cause will help relieve the symptoms.
A good diet with inclusion of different types of vegetables, cereals, nuts along with milk from the beginning of life can always help keep muscle cramps away when one starts ageing.