Cramps: causes, symptoms and remedies

Cramps: causes, symptoms and remedies

Leg cramps, especially nocturnal ones, can be really annoying. Here's how to fix it

Leg cramps are involuntary muscle contractions or real spasms. The most common ones are those that occur after intense physical activity. If you happen to have calf cramps or foot cramps, one of the most frequent at night, don't worry, there are many ways to get them through and often these are disorders that have no cause for concern, except in rare cases where may be related to diabetes and peripheral arterial disease.

Types of cramps

The cramps in the legs affect the voluntary skeletal muscles, those that extend between two bones and are connected by tendons and nerve fibers. As regards the types of this painful disorder, one can speak of idiopathic cramps and secondary cramps. Of the former it is not possible to trace the cause that caused the onset of cramps, while in the latter case there are underlying causes.

Idiopathic cramps

By the name of idiopathic cramps are meant those whose origin is not clear. Mainly it is thought that, in the case of cramps in the thighs or legs, at night, the origin is an abnormal nervous activity, which leads to abnormal muscle contractions. If the cramp is sudden there may be a link with the circulation; in practice there is less blood flow to the painful areas. In elderly subjects cramps are more frequent, due to the shortening of tendons.

Secondary cramps

When you hear about secondary cramps, you need to know that this is a type of disorder that derives from an easily recognizable underlying condition. The most common are pregnancy (the bump increases pressure on the leg muscles), too much exercise or special neurological conditions. At the base of secondary cramps there are also infections, liver diseases, poisoning (from bacteria or harmful substances) or dehydration.

What are the causes of cramps?

Night cramps mainly affect the lower limbs and present themselves with intense and sudden pains. The causes of their origin are usually linked to intense physical exertion, but pregnancy and a particularly hot climate can also be listed among the causes of calf and thigh cramps. Even old age is a cause to be reckoned with. Summing up the cramps are caused by:

  • physical effort;
  • age;
  • pregnancy;
  • hot;
  • diabetes and arteriopathies.

Why are cramps more frequent in summer?

Why do night cramps come more frequently when the weather gets hotter? The link between the two situations is not clear, but there are scholars who have linked it to an increase in dehydration. In practice when the body is thirsty there is a loss of magnesium and potassium, connected with the loss of liquids and mineral salts. If you like doing sport even when it's really hot, follow some rules to prevent cramps from appearing.

How to prevent cramps from arising

When leg cramps are secondary, to treat them you have to act on their cause, sometimes even using traditional drugs. For all other cases the solution is much simpler, as the experts of the Humanitas Medical Center explain. If you like to walk fast to keep in shape, follow the rules to keep yourself hydrated and your legs will thank you. Those who suffer from nocturnal cramps in particular can find benefit in a short and light physical activity before sleeping, for example a walk or doing an exercise bike.

What to do when you have a cramp

The cramps in the legs are painful and as soon as one is presented the time is not passed. As soon as the pain shows up, you need to stretch the muscle. If the pain is in the calf, stretch out your leg and bend your foot upwards, so that your fingers are facing your chin. Now walk on your heels for a few minutes and the pain should pass. You can also massage the aching muscle with your hand or an ice bag. Walk and move your leg or take a hot shower and the pain will pass. If you suffer from night cramps, add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Eggplants are killers for night cramps.

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