One of our viewers wondered what causes leg cramps at night and what can you do about it?
Leg cramps are caused by a number of things. They are most common in middle age and in people over 50. One of the most common causes is a contraction of the muscle. When you turn over at night, the muscles contract and if they do not relax, you get a cramp (sometimes called a charley horse).
Other causes include an obstruction of blood follow in the leg, over use of the muscles, and a disturbance in the mineral balance in the body.
No one knows for sure what sets off these painful events. The best thing to do is try to prevent them. Be sure to get enough fluids-especially if you exercise. Stretch the calf muscle regularly during the day and especially just before bed time.
Stand about 30 inches from a wall. Keep your heels on the ground and lean forward and put your hands on the wall. Move your hands up the wall slowly until you feel a stretch in the calf muscles. Hold that position for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise 2 or 3 times several times a day.
When you feel that cramp at night, walk around. Try stretching by pulling your toes towards your knee or massage the offending muscle. Try applying heat or ice to the muscle.
Make sure you are getting enough minerals in your diet. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin E are important in the prevention of muscle cramps. The only drug that has been shown to treat cramps is quinine. Because the dose is important, it is no longer available over-the-counter. Ask your doctor if it might be good for you. Some doctors also prescribe muscle relaxants and they seem to help some people.
Check with your doctor if the cramp lasts more than 8 hours or if there is also redness and swelling in the leg. If the cramp only comes during exercise, you may have something caused by poor circulation and should talk to your doctor about it.