Leg cramps can be troublesome for many people, since almost 4 people out of ten experience these cramps at least thrice in a week. Be it during the day, while one is working or in the middle of the night, muscular leg cramps can strike any moment. The skeletal or voluntary muscles of the calf, thigh and arch of the foot are most vulnerable to painful episodes of cramping.
Although most of the cramps do not last for more than a few seconds, in extreme cases, it can stay on for almost ten minutes or more. In a significant number of cases, the exact or primary cause is hard to find out. Some of the secondary factors include side effects of medications like diuretics, injury, pregnancy, nerve related disorder or excessive dehydration. There are a number of ways in which nocturnal or true cramps can be kept at an arms length. The article discusses some of the natural ways to avoid such painful cramps.
10 Tips for Preventing Leg Cramps
To prevent the sudden bout of contractile muscle activity, mainly in the leg region, massage the affected muscle area. Poor circulation is one of the factors responsible for muscle spasms. Thus, massage helps the muscles heal at a decent pace and prevent further cramp attacks.The aim of manual or electric massage is to accelerate the blood flow to the legs so that the tensed muscles receive enough oxygen and nutrients, along with a chance to relax. These effects are more appreciable post exercise, as the accumulated lactic acid and other chemicals within the muscles get flushed out.
Do Not Overwork The Leg Muscles
It has been observed that professional sportsmen or athletes over train their muscles, especially around the time of competitions. This results in stress buildup within the muscle framework and makes the individual prone to injuries due to leg cramps and associated muscle soreness.
Increase Intake Of Potassium
When the potassium level in the blood takes a dip, the condition is called hypokalemia. As a result, normal functions of nerve transmission, muscle contraction in many parts of the body, inclusive of calves gets impaired. According to a list prepared by U.S Department Of Agriculture, bananas, orange juice, avocado and tomato have abundant levels of potassium.
Some of the other foods that made it to the list are apricots, raisins, prunes and carrot juice. The body requires at least 3.5-4.7 g of potassium each day. Lactating mothers have an increased demand for potassium (5.1g daily) to prevent leg cramps.
Do note the excess of potassium will not put an end to muscular cramps; instead, it can put one at a danger of cardiovascular problems such as cardiac arrest. If you are taking potassium containing supplements, do mention this to your doctor. Many of these supplements are known to trigger certain side effects.
Leg Muscles Need Calcium
Calcium is essential for not only bone growth and development, but also for proper muscle health and activity. Calcium is needed to control muscle fatigue, which progresses into, uncontrollable, painful movements involving either single or many muscles.Natural sources of Calcium include milk, cheese, yoghurt followed by fruits like figs or vegetables such as okra and kale. Sardine is a fish variety that has almost twice the amount of Calcium than a glassful of milk.
Broccoli, spinach, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds are regarded as rich sources of magnesium. The same goes for nuts and halibut, which must be included in the diet plan for preventing leg cramps. The mineral magnesium plays an esential role in processing and absorption of Calcium. If the body has a dearth of magnesium, the contraction will not be succeeded by proper muscle relaxation. The human body requires 320-400 mg of magnesium ingestion each day.
Have More Glasses Of Water
The key to avoid the characteristic, involuntary tightening of the calf and thigh muscles is adequate hydration. Loss of fluids and impairment of electrolyte balance can occur due to excessive sweating, reduced water intake or excessive alcohol consumption. This causes the working leg muscles to dehydrate, especially while exercising. A good rule of thumb is to drink 5-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes while performing rigorous physical activity.
Always carry a bottle that contains salt water, prepared by adding half a teaspoon of normal salt to 30 oz of water. Doctors recommend women and men to have 2.7 and 3.7 liters of water on a daily basis, respectively.
Purchase And Wear Proper Shoes
You must pay close attention to the footwear while heading out for a jog or walk. Purchase a pair of shoes that are comfortable and offer adequate support. If your shoes do not have some room for movement in the toe box area, opt for new ones. Flip flops and ordinary flats do not offer proper arch support, put excess load on the feet and legs, consequently increasing the chances of muscle cramps (especially at night)
Glycine, a natural compound in Chamomile act as a fast acting, strong muscle relaxant. Of all the forms in which the herb is available, a cup of tea seems to bring best result in easing leg cramps.Add 1-2 teaspoon of dried chamomile herb to a cup of water and leave it to steep for ten minutes. Strain the hot solution, add a teaspoon of honey and consume 3-4 times in a day.
Limited flexibility of the muscles in the leg, especially the calf muscles, is one of the most prominent reasons why muscle cramps occur while exercising. Static stretches can, in fact, enhance the flexibility of the leg and calves muscles. Spend some time learning and practicing yoga postures, many of which focus on maintaining a stretch in one position for a few minutes. Downward facing dog, supported bridge pose and runner’s stretch are the perfect ways to target the hamstring.
Avoid Dehyrdating Beverages
Another step one must follow to avoid ‘Charley horses’, or leg cramps while sleeping or doing any activity is to restrict or eliminate the consumption of dehydrating beverages. By the term, ‘dehydrating beverages’ we are referring to drinks with caffeine or soda. Also, too much of tea and energy drinks can disturb the electrolyte balance and draw water from the leg muscles.