A muscle cramp is a strong, painful contraction often occurring in the legs, but not limited to. Onset is sudden and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. When it occurs in the legs, it is commonly referred to as a charley horse.
Night time leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf. The muscle cramps can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot, although much less frequently. Unfortunately, cramps often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up and can be quite disrupting to your sleep.
What causes muscle cramps?
The cause of muscle cramps isn’t always known. Muscle cramps may be brought on by many conditions or activities, such as:
1. Electrolyte deficiency (not having enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals in your blood.)
3. Exercising, injury, or overuse of muscles.
4. Pregnancy. Cramps may occur because of decreased amounts of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the later months of pregnancy.
5. Standing on a hard surface for a long time, sitting for a long time, or putting your legs in awkward positions while you sleep.
6. Exposure to cold temperatures, especially to cold water.
7. Other medical conditions, such as blood flow problems (peripheral arterial disease), kidney disease, thyroid disease, and multiple sclerosis.
8. Taking certain medicines, such as antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids.
How can you stop a muscle cramp when it happens?
You may need to try several different techniques/tips to stop a muscle cramp before you find what works best for you as the cause of cramps depend on varying factors. Here are a few things to try to alleviate them:
1. Stretch and massage the muscle.
4. Drink plenty of water.
5. Electrolyte replacement supplements or drinks.
If the aforementioned tips don’t alleviate the symptoms, consider coming in for an evaluation.
Have a great day,
Dr. Crysta Serné
Vancouver Chiropractor and owner of Vitality Clinic