Severe Leg Cramps - And What To Do About Them
Most of us get leg cramps from time to time, and a few of us get fairly severe leg cramps from time to time. They can occur when we are just sitting in a chair, but most often occur during the middle of the night. When they do occur, it can be the calves, the feet, the quadriceps, or the hamstrings that are affected. Sometimes, only one leg is involved, but there are also times when both legs get into the action simultaneously. This can make hopping about to walk off the cramp quite a challenge, assuming you're able to get out of bed in the first place. There are times when we almost make it all the way out of bed, but not quite. We can't stand up and we can't lie down. All we can do is try not to cry or scream too loudly while trying to get the pain to go away.
The pain we can experience from severe leg cramps is bad enough, but what is worse is when we think we have the pain under control. It slowly subsides, but suddenly returns with a vengeance. Meanwhile, we're trying to remember what we read a month or so back about how to relieve the pain quickly and effectively.
What Causes Cramps? - More often than not we don't know exactly why we get cramps. Sometimes we do, especially when they to occur after a long hike, after exercising a bit too hard, after working in the yard a bit too long, or after standing on a hard surface for too many hours. These are all things that can tend to bring on cramps, though not necessarily regularly. We can try to avoid cramps by eating bananas, since bananas provide potassium, and a deficiency in potassium is one reason cramps are said to occur. Eating bananas can help, but not always. There's something a little sinister about leg cramps, especially those severe leg cramps we get during the night. We can learn a great deal about what causes cramping, how to relieve a painful cramp, and how best to avoid them, but we never seem to be able to find out everything we need to know. There's some important piece of information about leg cramps that eludes us. You can call it mysterious, or sinister, or whatever, but it's a piece of important information we apparently are not allowed access to.
Pregnancy And Age - We do know that becoming dehydrated can cause cramps, if not to the legs to the stomach or to the muscles in the rib cage. We know that cramps sometime occur during a sporting event as a result of hard contact. If you get kicked in the hamstring for example, it will very often tighten up. Pregnancy can also encourage cramping, as if the person who is pregnant didn't have enough else to think about. The probability of getting a leg cramp now and then supposedly increases with age. That's not real encouraging when we get cramps a little more often than we think we would like, but realize they aren't something we'll eventually outgrow, but may experience more frequently with each passing year.
Except for the fact that they can drive us nearly out of our minds when we get them, leg cramps are usually not in themselves harmful. If they are particularly severe they can sometimes leave us with a leg that is slightly sore the next day, but the soreness usually passes. Leg cramps are symptoms of a condition that is sometimes known, but usually is not, which is why prevention and treatment can be difficult. One thing to watch out for is severe leg cramps that frequently occur when walking. Most of the time we get cramps when seated, or lying on bed. If we get them while walking, it may be due a partial blockage in the arteries in the legs, caused by a disease called intermittent claudication, which usually manifests itself by feelings of tiredness or soreness in the muscles. Cramping would be a more severe symptom of claudication, and would be a symptom that should encourage one to seek medical advice.
Bars Of Soap? - Tips and techniques for relieving severe leg cramps abound. Some seem to work, though not for everyone, while others don't really seem to be of much help. Most of the preventive tips we read about we tend to forget. One suggested preventive measure is to sleep with one's legs straight, as opposed to assuming a (more comfortable) prenatal position. Another is to place an opened bar of soap near the muscle which most often is subject to cramping. This can be difficult if your leg cramps occur in more than one leg, and in more than one place. Trying to sleep with 4 or 5 bars of hand soap touching your legs just doesn't seem worth the effort.
What can help is a good diet (to avoid a potassium or magnesium deficiency), staying hydrated, and knowing the medications you're taking to see if a particular medication could be a cause. In the worst case, see your doctor. He or she may or may not be able to stop the cramps from occurring, but may have some helpful advice to offer.