Leg cramps are involuntary muscles that contract and are unable to relax. They can be very painful, and often feel like the muscle is hard and swollen as the muscle hardens. While cramps can occur anywhere in the body, they are most commonly experienced in the lower leg, calf or front and back of thigh.
What causes leg cramps?
Muscle cramps most often occur when the muscle is fatigued either from overuse or injury. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is another cause of muscle cramps and are experienced often while swimming, playing tennis or other active sports.
How can I prevent or help reduce the occurrence of leg muscle cramps?
If leg cramps occur during exercise, stop immediately. Stretch the muscle and do a light massage to help the muscle get back to the original shape. Heat will also help relax the muscle, then try massaging it again. Once the muscle has relaxed, you may use ice to help relieve any pain caused by the cramp. If the pain persists consider an over the counter pain medication or NSAID.
Always keep yourself well hydrated before, during and after all sports activities. If you are experiencing great amounts of sweat loss, then make sure to replenish electrolytes as well (sports drink, salt or electrolyte supplement). Always perform adequate stretching before and after all sports and or exercise routines.
Foods that may help with Leg Cramps?
To help prevent leg cramps, start by staying well hydrated and using sports drinks or electrolyte supplements, especially when working out in the summer or warm conditions. Also, consuming foods rich in vitamin D like fish (salmon, halibut), milk, oatmeal will help to avoid muscle cramps.
As always, if leg cramps persist or are extremely painful, consult your physician for further treatment.