Some leg cramps are caused by factors within your control, while others may be a symptom of a medical condition. If you experience leg cramps on a regular basis, you should consult your physician in order to rule out medical causes including diabetes and peripheral artery disease.
Muscle cramping is caused by a wide variety of factors including:
- Low levels of magnesium in the body
- Low levels of calcium or vitamin E in the body
- Circulation disorders
- Thyroid gland dysfunction
- Muscle injury
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Determining whether or not you suffer from any of the above conditions can be done by a visit to your primary care physician. A blood panel will allow your physician to measure levels of important hormones and minerals within the blood stream. If abnormal levels are identified, appropriate supplementation can be prescribed.
- Dehydration: Dehydration can be prevented by consuming enough water. On average, you should drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Severe dehydration can lead to headaches and muscle cramps.
- Heat stroke: Protecting yourself from heat stroke is within your control and will prevent leg cramps.
- Inactivity: Inactivity can also lead to leg cramps.
- Over-exercising: Too much exercise can cause muscle strain, which leads to leg cramps.
- Failure to stretch out properly: Stretching regularly and warming up your muscles when you get up in the morning and before you go to bed at night can help reduce the occurrence of leg cramps.
Causes of Different Types of Leg Cramps
Although they can occur at any age, the elderly are very prone to rest cramps. Rest cramps occur at night while you are sleeping and cause a sudden, painful seizing of the muscle. Persistent rest cramps can recur frequently, disturbing your sleep and leaving you feeling sleep deprived.
Unfortunately, no direct cause is associated with rest cramps although it is believed that they are caused by shortening the calf muscle abruptly, such as pointing toes while lying down, which clenches the calf muscle and may cause it to seize up.
Pregnancy and Cramps
Leg cramps during pregnancy are common. The exact reason is unknown, but likely has to do with a combination of hormonal and activity changes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, preventing leg cramps during pregnancy can be managed by staying hydrated, maintaining activity levels, stretching, and maintaining proper nutrition.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If leg cramps are a routine occurrence for you, consider your lifestyle and potential causes. If you suspect a muscle injury or metabolic condition, it is wise to seek the counsel of your primary care provider to determine if there is an underlying medical cause for your cramps. Often a simple lifestyle adjustment or appropriate nutritional supplement can help alleviate the symptoms of leg cramps.