Leg Cramps

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Question

Where do leg cramps come from and how can I avoid them?

Answer

Leg cramps, or as they are sometimes known as Charley Horses, typically happen after exercise or at night. They can result from muscle strain or overuse, nerve malfunctions, dehydration, decreased minerals or an overall lack of minerals like calcium and potassium in your body or a lack of blood getting to the muscle. When you feel a cramp, you should stop any activity that may be irritating the muscle. Then you should gently massage or stretch the muscle to relieve cramping and pain. Heat can also aid relaxing the muscle but ice can be applied after heat to help recovery and healing of the muscle. Anti-inflammatory non-steroidal painkillers like ibuprofen (Advil®), aspirin (Bayer®) and naproxen (Aleve®) can ease muscle pain from a muscle cramp. If your leg cramps are persistent, check with a health professional to rule out any more serious medical or nerve issues. You can prevent leg cramps by drinking lots of fluids like water, eating high-potassium foods like bananas and properly stretching before and after strenuous exercise.

Read more about muscle cramps in our Health Encyclopedia.

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