Leg Cramps And Their Causes
As a sufferer of leg cramps I thought it be good to share this with you. If you’ve been exercising away and then suddenly felt a sharp pain in your leg, you might be familiar with a leg cramp!
It feels a bit like a spasm in your leg which can make it hard to move. Some last only a few seconds, while others can take a few minutes to go away completely.
I think the worst thing about leg cramps is how quickly they can come on, usually out of nowhere!
So, for my barre ladies who have dealt with a nasty cramp— this blog is for you. This is how leg cramps are caused and what you can do to stop them.
What causes leg cramps?
Leg cramps may affect your calf, hamstring or your quad, making it painful to keep moving. This pain can hit suddenly and it can be really uncomfortable!
Leg cramps that set in during exercise are known as Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps, or EAMC for short. During exercise (or movement in general) your nervous system sends a signal to your muscles to contract, then another to relax. This is what causes your muscles to lengthen and shorten.
Muscle cramps happen when your muscle doesn’t get the signal to relax — which can happen for a couple of reasons.
Muscle fatigue If your muscles are really tired or overworked, they may not be able to absorb minerals as readily. This means the minerals that can help your muscle tissue relax after contracting may be missing, so you may be more prone to a cramp.
Lack of blood flow Clothing that is too tight can make it hard for the blood to flow effectively to your muscles which means they may not be getting the oxygen they need to function.
Dehydration Stay hydrated! Your muscles need fluids to help them contract and relax, so fill up your drink bottle and sip before, during and after exercise.
Make sure you are getting plenty of fluids.
Electrolyte imbalance When you are sweating a lot, you can lose electrolytes through your perspiration. When your body begins to deplete your nutrient reserves, such as potassium or magnesium, it can lead to cramping.
What causes leg cramps at night?
If you’ve ever had leg cramps at night, you know they can be painful and they can upset your sleep! Night time leg cramps are also known as nocturnal cramps and they can happen for a couple of different reasons.
Dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance. Just as a lack of fluids can cause leg cramps during exercise, it can also affect your legs during the night.Poor circulation. If you spend all day sitting or you sit in an awkward position, it can restrict the circulation in your legs, leading to a cramp. Fatigued muscles. Pregnancy.
Make sure you are getting enough fluids and moving around during the day, particularly for those girls who sit down to work. If nocturnal cramps continue, check in with your healthcare professional to make sure it isn’t anything serious.
How to get rid of leg cramps
When a leg cramp sets in, it is best to stop exercising and to stretch it out. Try giving the area a bit of a massage if you can manage it — the stimulation can help the muscles to relax a little.
These are a couple of stretches you can do to relieve a cramp in your leg:
Calf — Stretch the affected leg behind you while in lunge position and push your heel towards the ground.
Quad — Plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Bend the knee of the affected leg and bring your foot back directly behind you so that you can hold it with both hands. Hold for 30 seconds and then release. Repeat if you need to.
Hamstrings — Sit down and extend both legs out in front of you. Bending from the hips, reach for your feet (or as far as you can). If you can reach your toes, gently pull them back towards you or rest your hands on your ankles or shins — whichever is most comfortable.
Ways to prevent leg cramps
No one likes leg cramps but there are things you can do to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Try some of these tips:
1. Warm up and stretch before you start exercising, especially if you are doing any high-intensity exercises. There’s no excuse to skip it!
2. Stay hydrated! Drink water before, during and after exercise, especially when it’s hot outside.
3. Maintaining a healthy diet can also help you to prevent cramps. A lack of potassium or magnesium can lead to a higher risk of cramping, so make sure you are getting plenty of nutrients in your meals. Magnesium helps with muscle contraction and overall nerve function, so eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, nuts and wholegrain cereals in your diet and you should begin to notice a difference.
Dealing with leg cramps
Whether you’re getting leg cramps at night or while you exercise, there are ways to deal with them. They are uncomfortable but take a few deep breaths and try to stretch them out.
If you find you are getting a lot of leg cramps (or any other type of cramp) often and these tips aren’t helping, make sure you speak to your healthcare professional.
Always listen to your body!