Getting rid of leg cramps

  • 2010-07-08
  • By Anna Kravcova

Cramps in legs playing football are a common phenomenon

RIGA - Have you ever been woken up at night by a sudden sharp pain in your leg, so strong that you want to scream? Those who have experienced this unpleasant feeling will never forget it. However, if the answer to this question is negative, do not labor under the delusion that such a thing can never happen to you. Leg cramps are a very frequent and widespread phenomenon, which can bother even those who consider themselves to be absolutely healthy.

Why does it happen?
Two common causes of cramps are mineral deficiency, and circulatory failure. One should be particularly attentive to it in summer when these two conditions are more likely to happen. First of all, this is a time of outdoor activities, and active rest, such as swimming, jogging, biking, etc., which most of the people always look forward to. However, all these involve a great deal of physical stress, which is especially topical for people who are not used to practicing any sports, except watching World Cup.

One of the most essential minerals which stimulates the work of muscles is calcium. Its circulation in the cells is implemented by the means of sodium-potassium pumps. Physical exercise makes calcium emit into the muscles, which causes muscles to voluntary contract. Normally, magnesium performs the function of regulating the amount of calcium which enters the cells, and contributes to the work of pumps. However, due to the heavy consumption of energy and sweating an organism loses magnesium, which affects calcium circulation. As a result, too much calcium is discharged into the muscles, and eventually it leads to involuntary contractions. Thus, if an organism lacks magnesium, a person is more likely to fall under the risk of suffering this painful condition.

At risk
Swimming is the activity which most of all predisposes to cramps. Apart from performing physical exercise, a person often happens to get to a cold stream of water. Cold interferes with the normal blood flow, and causes circulatory failure. Even though water may seem quite warm at first sight, one must remember that the further you swim the colder it gets. In addition, is it necessary to remind that suffering cramps at great depths is very dangerous?

Besides, for many young people summertime is closely connected with final exams and school graduations, a constant sine qua non of which is mental stress. During stress an organism loses great amounts of magnesium. Thus, no wonder if an important test, speech or defense not only tickles your nerves, but also stabs your muscles.
Summer is also the favorite time of women, who finally get the chance to take out their favourite fancy outfits from the wardrobe. Nevertheless, fashion is one more “friend” of cramps, since it contributes to the vast usage of uncomfortable shoes, high hills, and modern diets. Sharp straps and bad soles deform the gastrocnemius muscles and make the legs swell, while low-calorie diets foresee very small consumption of magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency can be also caused by the extensive use of sugar, tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, such as cola, alcohol and smoking. All these withdraw magnesium from the organism and make it more predisposed to cramps.

What to do with it?
To begin with, one should take good care of their nutrition. Consumption of magnesium is the best cure and precaution. Besides, it may seem strange, but calcium also helps to fight involuntary muscle contractions.  Eat nuts, cereals, fresh and dried fruit, potatoes, milk products, eggs, meat and fish. All these products are rich with magnesium and calcium and are favorable for your muscles. However, if the problem with cramps is not a single instance, but a prolonged condition, it is more recommended to visit your doctor, and check the level of magnesium and calcium. Sometimes correct nutrition is not enough and you might need to take pills.

Before sleep
Dedicate at least 3 minutes of your time to stretch the legs before sleep. However, if the pain still has started, there are several easy tips which can assist you. To begin with, stretch the painful leg pulling it towards your chest. Then, massage and pinch the leg, and stand up. It will help to improve the blood flow. One more thing which is good for blood circulation is a warming ointment or water. Contrast shower is another possible alternative.

While swimming
Warm up your muscles before swimming. If you are caught by a cramp in water, do not panic! Firstly, do not feel shy to call for help. Secondly, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to prick the sensitive place with something sharp. For this purpose it is recommended to have a safety pin on your swimsuit. However, one must be very accurate with this method since a dirty pin may cause blood poisoning. Another possibility to fight cramps in water is to perform a special exercise, although it might seem rather challenging for ordinary swimmers. Take a deep breath, pull your knee to the chest, take your foot and pull it towards the head. It will reduce the pain, and will give you strength to get to dry land.

Alternative medicine
There also exist several curious non-traditional methods, which many people find very helpful.  It is advised to squeeze fresh lemon juice and apply it to the soles of bare feet. It is important to wait till the feet dry. Also, it is believed that a wine cork can easily remove the pain. One may simply rub the sensitive place with it, or make a “necklace” of corks which is supposed to be worn on a calf.  Some people consider that objects of iron and sealing wax can serve as a cure for cramps if held for some time in hand. Among other possible medicines are mustard oil and home made celandine ointment (fresh celandine juice mixed with Vaseline 2:4).

Keep in mind!
Sometimes cramps are only the symptoms of more serious diseases, such as: hidden trauma, brain tumors, epilepsy, spazmofiliya, eclampsia, neurological diseases, severe infections or inflammatory processes, etc. For this reason, if the problem continues to bother you, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. o

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