How to Prevent Leg Cramps in Summer

May 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Tips for Ayurveda

prevent-leg-crampsA muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary contraction of one or more of your muscles. Muscle cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour or occasionally longer. It is also possible for a cramp to recur multiple times until it finally goes away.

The muscle cramp may involve a part of a muscle, the entire muscle, or several muscles that usually act together, such as those that flex adjacent fingers. Some cramps involve the simultaneous contraction of muscles that ordinarily move body parts in opposite directions.

Muscle Cramps are extremely common. Almost everyone the estimate is about 95%, experiences a cramp at some time in their life. Cramps are common in adults and become increasingly frequent with aging. However, children also experience cramps.

Involuntary muscles of the various organs (uterus, blood vessel wall, bowels, bile and urine passages, bronchial tree, etc.) are also subject to cramps.

Leg cramps usually occur when you are resting – most commonly at night when in bed. (They are often called night cramps).

Also read: A Good Sleep will Make You Look Younger

This commonly happens at night in bed, as the natural position we lie in is with the knees slightly bent (flexed), and with feet pointing slightly downwards. In this position the calf muscle is relatively shortened and may be prone to cramps.

Long periods of exercise or physical labor, particularly in hot weather, may lead to muscle cramps. Some medications and certain medical conditions also may cause muscle cramps. You can usually treat muscle cramps at home with self-care measures.

Causes of Leg cramps

You may experience the leg cramp when you could be drifting off to sleep or out to run. The muscles of your calf or foot suddenly become hard, tight, and extremely painful. You are having a muscle cramp. Also called charley horses — particularly when they are in the calf muscles.prevent-leg-cramps

Although most muscle cramps are harmless, some may be related to an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • Inadequate blood supply. Narrowing of the arteries that deliver blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities) can produce cramp-like pain in your legs and feet while you’re exercising. These cramps usually go away soon after you stop exercising.
  • Nerve compression. Compression of nerves in your spine also can produce cramp-like pain in your legs. The pain usually worsens the longer you walk. Walking in a slightly flexed position — such as you would employ when pushing a shopping cart ahead of you — may improve or delay the onset of your symptoms.
  • Mineral depletion. Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps. Diuretics — medications often prescribed for high blood pressure — may also deplete these minerals.

In some cases, the cramps may be a symptom of another problem that is persisting. For example:

  • Some medicines can cause cramps as a side-effect, or make cramps occur more often.
  • Over-exertion of muscles.
  • Dehydration.
  • Pregnancy – usually in the later stages.
  • An untreated underactive thyroid gland.
  • Excess alcohol.
  • Some people who have kidney (renal) dialysis get leg cramps.
  • Some uncommon disorders of nerves.

In most cases the cause is not known. The unknown cause is termed as idiopathic leg cramps. One theory is that cramps occur when a muscle that is already in a shortened position is stimulated to contract. Further contract of shortened muscles may cause the muscle to go into spasm. This commonly happens at night in bed, as the natural position we lie in is with the knees slightly bent (flexed), and with feet pointing slightly downwards. In this position the calf muscle is relatively shortened and may be prone to cramps. This theory explains why stretching exercises may cure the problem.

Tips to Prevent Leg cramps

If you often get leg cramps, regularly stretching the muscles in your lower legs may help prevent the cramps or reduce their frequency.

You might find it useful to stretch your calves before you go to bed each night. The following night-time advice may also help:

  • If you lie on your back, make sure that your toes point upwards –placing a pillow on its side at the end of your bed, with the soles of your feet propped up against it may help keep your feet in the right position.
  • If you lie on your front, hang your feet over the end of the bed – this will keep your feet in a relaxed position and help stop the muscles in your calves from contracting and tensing.
  • Keep your sheets and blankets loose.

Also read: Bedtime Yoga for Relaxation and Better Sleep

Exercises recommended for leg cramps

prevent-leg-crampsStretching exercises are commonly advised. Most doctors feel that regular calf stretching does help. If exercises works, you will not need any tablets to prevent the cramps.

  • At first, do stretching exercises of affected muscles for about five minutes, three times a day. Do the last exercise shortly before bedtime. If the cramps ease off, you may then only need to do the exercise once or twice a day to keep the cramps away.
  • To stretch calf muscles, stand about 60-90 cm from a wall.
  • Then, keeping the soles of your feet flat on the floor, bend forward and lean on the wall. You will feel your calf muscles stretch.
  • Do this several times, each time for as long as you can manage.

It may take a week or so of exercises before you notice an improvement. So, it is worth giving yourself a 2 to 4 week trial of regular calf stretching exercises to see if your cramps ease off. The cramps may not go completely, but their frequency and/or severity may reduce. Go ahead and give a try today itself.

Ayurvedic remedies to prevent leg cramps

  • Massage the muscle with Mahanarayana taila or Praharini taila to relax it. In winter season, these oils should be made warm and then applied for massage.
  • Apply a cold pack to reduce the blood flow and relax the muscle.

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