They can strike at any time and for many reasons, and for most people, the only thought that accompanies the episode is “When is this going to end?” Also called a charley horse, a leg cramp is a spasm (involuntary contraction) that most commonly affects the muscles in the calf but also can affect thigh muscles or the feet. These cramps may last anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes. Many times, these cramps occur in the middle of the night, interrupting your sleep and jolting you out of your slumber and into a bewildered, pained state. However, leg cramps can also occur in daytime hours when you are participating in exercise such as running or biking -- or for no apparent reason at all.
Causes of Leg Cramps
It is often difficult to pin down what exactly causes muscle cramps, but some typical reasons include dehydration, strenuous exercise, sitting in an awkward position for an extended period of time or muscle trauma. Additionally, some medications can cause leg cramps, including certain steroids, diuretics or birth control. Cold weather may contribute to the likelihood of leg cramps in some situations. Consider these additional possibilities as causes for your leg cramps and seek medical attention if you need guidance managing your symptoms.
MISSING MINERALS: Many people are unaware of the need the body has for certain minerals and nutrients in order to maintain optimal performance and health. If your diet lacks minerals such as calcium, magnesium or potassium, you may be more prone to leg cramps. Consider adding these minerals into your diet through food choices or taking supplements that will add the appropriate levels to your daily intake.
STUNTED BLOOD SUPPLY: Also known as arteriosclerosis of the extremities, narrowing of the arteries that bring blood into the legs can cause cramping. This may be a result of exercise and often goes away once you end your exercise session and cool down.