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Leg Cramps Ouch!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Leg and foot cramps are experienced by most people from time to time. There are many reasons why foot cramps develop. Some are related to nutrition while other bouts of cramping are caused by excess strain on the feet themselves.

One of the more common reasons for foot cramps is old-fashioned fatigue. The most common cause of nocturnal leg cramps is calcium deficiency. Magnesium and potassium deficiency can also cause leg and foot cramps. Cramps can occur when the feet are simply tired from walking or standing for extended periods of time.

This can be especially true in situations where the walking and standing take place on a hard and unforgiving surface, such as concrete. Often, adding some cushioning inserts to the shoes will help to minimize some of the stress and strain placed on the feet and help to eliminate frequent foot cramps.

Foot pain and cramping may also be a sign of decreased circulation. When the blood flow to the extremities is not what it should be, those extremities do not receive the oxygen they need.

When it comes to the feet, an inadequate supply of oxygen can cause muscles in the feet to cramp. Addressing the health issue that is causing the decreased circulation will help to minimize the incidence of foot cramps.

A lack of essential vitamins and minerals can also lead to foot cramps.

Low potassium levels often cause cramps in both the legs and the feet. Nutritional deficiencies can be corrected by eating a balanced diet and using supplements to provide the body with anything it is not getting from the food.

A foot cramp due to poor nutrition can be reversed within a matter of days when the body begins to receive the right balance of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis.

Poor hydration may also trigger a bout of foot cramps.

Drinking water will often help; however, anyone who smokes or drinks alcohol regularly will want to try cutting back on those habits. Smoking and drinking alcohol increases the chances of dehydration and may sometimes be the root cause of foot cramps.

General health issues may also lead to foot cramps.

People with diabetes sometimes experience foot cramps due to the decreased flow of oxygen to the feet. There are treatments that help to minimize the physical discomforts brought on by diabetes and other health conditions and minimize the potential for experiencing cramping in one or both feet.

Idiopathic cramps

Most muscle cramps occurring in the foot and leg are idiopathic, (of unknown origin). The general principle of muscle is that if it is overstretched it will tend to go into spasm. Sometimes if a patient has spent the day doing a lot of activity they be more prone to night cramps that evening.

Night cramps

For most people, night cramps are an irregularly occurring problem but there are some, especially older individuals who are more prone to regular bouts.

The most common cause for leg-foot cramps is over-stretching of the muscles during the day. There are other conditions which may cause muscle cramping:

Some medicines can cause cramps as a side-effect, or make cramps occur more often.

These include: diuretics (water pills), nifedipine, cimetidine, salbutamol, terbutaline,lithium, clofibrate, morphine (withdrawal), phenothiazines, and nicotinic acid.

Other causes of muscle cramps

* Dehydration
* Conditions that cause alterations in the balance of salts in the bloodstream (such as a high or low sodium or potassium level).
* Some people who have renal (kidney) dialysis get leg cramps.
* An untreated under-active thyroid gland.
* peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the leg arteries which causes poor circulation).
* Cirrhosis of the liver is a rare cause.
* Lead poisoning.
* Sarcoidosis.
* Rare disorders of nerves.
* Excess alcohol.

Preventing muscle cramps thru nutrition

1. Vitamin E supplements can help prevent leg cramps.
2. Magnesium supplements can help prevent leg cramps.
3. Drink six to eight glasses of water daily. Doing so will help
prevent dehydration, which may play a role in the cramping.
4. Form the habit of stretching calves and feet throughout the day and also at night if you get cramps.

Exercises to prevent cramps

Nocturnal muscle cramps can often be prevented by doing leg-stretching exercises, such as the one outlined below.

1. Stand 30 inches from the wall.
2. While keeping your heels on the floor, lean forward, put your hands on the wall, and slowly move your hands up the wall as far as you can reach comfortably.
3. Hold the stretched position for 30 seconds. Release.
4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 two more times.
5. For best results, practice this exercise in the morning, before your evening meal, and before going to bed each night.

Acupressure and massage

Acupressure or massage may help to ease the cramping once it’s started. Sit and bend the knee of your cramped leg, bringing your leg up toward your chest.

There is an acupressure point in your calf muscle on the back of your leg. It’s about halfway between the back of your knee and your heel, at the bottom of your calf muscle bulge. Press and hold there for about a minute or until you feel the cramp release – remember to keep breathing while you do.

You can also try gently massaging the back of your leg with long strokes upwards, from your heel to the back of your knee using the palm of your hand

Neuropathy is different than muscle cramps

It is important to differentiate leg pain from cramps. Neuropathy (nerve damage), sciatica, as well as clogged arteries in the leg (vascular disease) can cause leg pain.

These types of pain tend to occur throughout the day and not just at night. Vascular disease also causes cramping with walking. In vascular disease, nighttime pain is relieved with hanging the foot over the bed so that gravity draws more
blood into the feet.

Poor circulation also causes poor healing that results in persistent sores (ulcers). Leg cramps that occur at rest may have a different cause and treatment than cramps associated with activity.

Leg cramps are different than restless leg syndrome

Nocturnal leg cramps must be distinguished from restless leg syndrome, which is a crawling, uncomfortable sensation that forces you to get up and move your legs.

Junk food can make muscle cramps worse

Eating sugary foods forces your body to use magnesium just to metabolize the sweet stuff. Soft drinks contain phosphates, which experts say also deplete your body of magnesium and calcium.

Foods to avoid if you have leg and foot cramps

Soft drinks
Sugary sweet baked goods
Salt or sodium

Foods containing calcium are helpful


Foods containing lots of magnesium are helpful

Dried figs
Whole wheat flour
Prune juice
Canned milk

Sweet potatoes

Foods containing potassium are helpful

Potato chips (low fat)
All Bran
Dried fruits
Unsalted nuts
Baked potato
Bran flakes

The info in this post is quoted from Internet sources.


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