Leg cramps are one of the worst things in the world for many people, especially professional runners. A runner who experiences cramp when they are very close to the finish line shows what a huge impact leg cramp can have on someone’s life. If you are thinking that this will only affect people’s careers, then you will be interested to know that leg cramp is one of the world’s main causes of drowning.
What exactly is leg cramp?
Leg cramp is a very unpleasant and generally painful feeling that occurs when the leg muscles are shortened or contracted after a muscle spasm. Leg cramps will mainly occur behind the knee and down the calf muscles, occasionally they will extend to the smaller muscles in the feet which can affect a person’s ability to walk. The sensation will generally last for a few seconds or minutes, though the muscles can feel a bit sire for up to 24 hours after the cramp occurs. In extreme incidences cramps can last up to 10 minutes, these can be dangerous if they occur in situations such as open water or driving. People who experience leg cramps will mostly just have isolated cramps that occur at random, though as we get older the cramping can occur more frequently and on a regular basis.
Causes of Leg Cramps
Knowing what causes your cramping is half the battle to dealing with them properly. A basic understanding of how muscles work is the first step to understanding cramps. Using muscles that we have control over, such as arms or legs require us to contract them knowingly. When these muscles contract involuntarily we call it a ‘muscle spasm’ which can sometimes be quite painful. When these spasms become prolonged they are known as cramps. One of the reasons why people tend to get leg cramps during the night is that their legs can be in a slightly bent position with the foot pointing downwards. In this position, the calf muscle is shortened already making it more prone to cramping. Some other reasons of cramping can be over exertion, dehydration, mineral depletion and inadequate blood supply to the muscles.
Reducing Leg Cramps
Leg cramps are not a serious illness but can be quite uncomfortable and painful for people who experience them. Leg cramps can also be a symptom of more serious health problems and should be checked out if they are persistent. Here are some simple ways in which you can reduce the pain of a leg cramp.
- Massaging the area and stretching out the muscle in the limb.
- Apply some heat or cold compresses to the area.
- Change your sleeping position
Keeping limber and doing regular stretching exercises will help to reduce cramping and keep the pain and discomfort to a minimum. By eating a nutritious diet and living a healthy lifestyle you can prevent many more cases of cramp and help to stay a lot more comfortable for the future.