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Those Horrible Leg and Foot Cramps. . .

Ouch! It’s a sudden, involuntary, painful muscular contraction. It’s a sudden pain that you get when the muscles in a particular part of the body tighten, usually by cold,
or too much exercise.

Muscle Cramps

A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. When we use the muscles that can be controlled voluntarily, such as those of our arms
and legs, they alternately contract and relax as we move our limbs. Muscles
that support our head, neck, and trunk contract similarly in a synchronised
fashion to maintain our posture. A muscle (or even a few fibers of a muscle)
that involuntarily (without consciously willing it) contracts, is a
“spasm.” If the spasm is forceful and sustained, it becomes a cramp.
Muscle cramps cause a visible or palpable hardening of the involved muscle.

An occurrence in xa skeletal muscle, cramps are common too in legs, feet, and muscles that cross
two joints like the calf muscle. They can involve part of a muscle, or all the
muscles in a group. The most usually affected muscle groups are:

  • back of leg/calf (gastrocnemius)
  • back of thigh (hamstrings)
  • front of thigh (quadriceps)
  • feet, hands, arms and abdomen.

A popular
condition, approximately 95% of persons experience a cramp at some time in
their life. Adults though tend to be more at risk, with the frequency
increasing with aging. However, children also experience cramps. Athletes are
high risk too, especially when warm up and downs aren’t
done or executed properly. The intensity of muscle cramps ranges from slight to
severe pain. A cramp feels rock hard and last for a few seconds to several
minutes or longer. It is common for cramps to ease up and then return several
times before they go away entirely.

 

Causes

 

Experts believe
that for the most part, it is related to poor flexibility of muscles or muscle
fatigue of doing new activities. Other factors such as dehydration, depletion
of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium or magnesium), injuries, and
inflammation and nerve damage can cause cramps. Cramps are more common during
exercise in the heat because sweat contain fluid as well as electrolytes. When
these nutrients fall below a certain level, the incidents of muscle spasms increase.

Athletes are
more likely to get cramps when the body is not conditioned and therefore
subject to fatigue. Cramps often develop near the end of intense or prolonged
exercise or the night after such.

Treatment of Muscle cramps

 

Muscle cramps
usually go away without treatment. If it persists

  • Stop the activity that causes the cramp.
  • Gently stretch and massage the cramping
    muscle.
  • Hold the joint in a stretched position
    until the cramp stops.

Prevention

 

  • Improve fitness and avoid muscle
    fatigue.
  • Warm up regularly before exercise and
    stretch after it.
  • Stretch the calf muscle.
  • Stretch the hamstring muscle.
  • Stretch the quadriceps muscle.

Leg cramps

 

Leg cramps or
spasms are a painful tightening of the muscles in the leg. Staying in bed for
long periods of time also can cause leg or foot cramps. Leg cramps can be
recognized by the sudden pain or discomfort in a leg or foot and a tight or
stiff feeling. Nocturnal night cramps occur during the night or while at rest.
The cramps can affect persons of any age group, but they occur mostly in middle
aged and older people. The exact cause of night cramps has not yet been identified
by researchers. The problem is most likely with nerves controlling the muscles
rather than with the muscles themselves.

 

Causes

 

The cramps can
be caused by overexertion of muscles, structural disorders, standing on
concrete, prolonged sitting, inappropriate leg positions, or dehydration. Less
common causes include diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, thyroid, endocrine
disorders and use of some medications. Low levels of certain minerals known as
electrolytes have been linked to leg cramps. Certain drugs, pregnant women and
dialysis patients are sufferers of leg cramps.

 

Treatment

 

  • When cramping occurs, try walking on the
    affected leg and elevate it.
  • Stretch your calf by grabbing toes and
    pulling them upward towards your knee, especially with your leg extended
    straight.
  • See a massage therapist/physiotherapist
    to have massages and exercises done.
  • Take a hot bath or apply ice to the
    cramped muscle and then have it massaged.

 Persisted or severe cramps are treated with
medication.

 

Prevention

 

Stretching your
calves regularly during the day and at night will help. Prevent night cramps by
stretching you calf muscles with wall push-ups and applying a heating pad for
ten minutes before going to bed. Keeping the blanket loose at the foot will
prevent unnatural positioning of your feet which can cause night cramps.

 

Foot cramps

 

It is the
tightening or painful contraction in the middle of the foot. In many cases, the
deep muscles in the foot actually knots up and contracts.

 

Causes

 

  • An overworked foot can be susceptible to
    foot cramps.
  • Poor circulation of oxygen being carried
    to the foot.
  • Lack of potassium.
  • Dehydration.
  • Pinched nerves- caused when the electrical
    impulse from the brain cannot reach the muscles.
  • Alcohol or tobacco use
  • Nutritional deficiency.
  • Chemical sensitivity.

Treatment

 

  • Slowly pull the foot away from the
    cramping position and hold it there until the foot cramp disappears. Massage
    the foot for 5 to 10 minutes until it feels better.
  • Elevate your foot to the level of your
    waist.
  • Use moist heat on the foot cramp three
    times a day if it is chronic.
  • Take a dose of aspirin or ibuprofen to
    relieve the cramp if it is for an extended period.
  • Soak the foot in warm water and possibly
    a few drops of aromatherapy oil.
  • If necessary wrap the foot in an elastic
    bandage.
  • If it is an athletic injury, apply ice
    pack but not directly.
  • Stay off your foot and give a chance to
    ease.
  • See a doctor if it becomes a chronic
    condition.

There are
varieties of causes and types of muscle cramps. Numerous medicines also can
cause muscle cramps. Most of the muscle cramps can be stopped if the muscle is
stretched.

 

Your feet mirror your general health . . .
cherish them!

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