What Causes Leg Cramps

Wondering what causes leg cramps? These cramps involve part, all or a combination of muscles in the leg suddenly contracting involuntarily. The muscles harden for a few seconds to a quarter of an hour. This is often painful. 

Leg cramps are common in adolescents, older adults, pregnant women and athletes. Nighttime leg cramps can wake a person suddenly and be very painful. Here are some of the possible causes.

Injury
Sometimes, a cramp is triggered in response to an injury to a muscle or bone. It is one of the body's methods of self-protection.

Exercise
Vigorous exercise can trigger cramping in response to muscle fatigue or awkward muscle use. If a person is not used to a certain exercise, the muscle will cramp in response to not being used or to moving in an unusual manner.

Resting
Leg cramps that happen overnight do not have a known cause. It could be from moving the toes a certain way during sleep, although this is not certain. Rubbing the affected area and massaging it until the cramp ends is a good first course of treatment. A hot bath could also help relax the muscle after the cramp subsides.

Dehydration
Cramps happen more often in people who are dehydrated than those who are not. Drinking enough water and replenishing electrolytes after exercise can make a difference. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these cause dehydration.  

Mineral Imbalance
Low levels of calcium, potassium or magnesium in the blood have been known to contribute to leg cramps, especially in pregnant women. Taking supplements of these minerals may help balance their levels in the blood and reduce the frequency of leg cramps.

Footwear
High-heeled shoes and boots can contribute to leg cramps in men and women. The higher the heels, the more the lower leg muscles contract. If you wear high heels for extended periods of time, you may suffer leg cramps when you walk barefoot or wear flat-heeled shoes. Avoid wearing heels for more than a few hours. Heels higher than one inch should be avoided.

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