Muscle cramps in the legs are sudden, strong, painful and involuntary contractions of a muscle, usually the cramps are nocturnal and affect the legs.
Whoever has woken up during the night or has stopped while walking through a sudden cramp knows that this problem can cause unbearable muscle pain in the legs . Muscle cramps are generally harmless, but they can prevent the use of temporarily affected muscle.
Long periods of exercise or physical work, especially when it is hot, can cause muscle cramps. Among the causes is the taking of certain medications and certain diseases. It is usually possible to treat muscle cramps with home remedies.
Medical appointment for cramp in the thigh
Tags: cramp, thigh, pain, fatigue, contraction, massage, visit
The most commonly affected muscles are found in the lower limb, particularly the calf, the sole of the foot and the big toe, but the thighs, arms and hands may also be affected.
Muscle cramps can last from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour or even longer. Often a cramp is repeated several times before it resolves.
This problem can partially or completely affect a muscle, but sometimes it affects different muscles that act together, such as those that flex two adjacent fingers.
Muscle cramps are very common, almost all (an estimate is around 95%) have had a cramp at some point in their life.
This problem is common in adults, especially those over 50, however, even children may have cramps.
Causes of muscle cramps
The cause of muscle cramps is not always known. Muscle cramps can be caused by many diseases or activities, for example:
- Exercises and muscle overload, especially if the muscles already have an accumulation of lactic acid.
- Perform endurance sports (soccer, cycling, etc.) without proper athletic training.
- Cramps can occur because of the reduced amount of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, especially in the last months of pregnancy.
- Exposure to cold, especially cold water.
- Other diseases, such as problems of blood flow (peripheral arteriopathy), multiple sclerosis, kidney and thyroid diseases.
- Standing on a hard surface for a long time, sitting for a long time, or putting your legs in uncomfortable positions during sleep.
- The lack of potassium , calcium and other minerals in the blood can cause widespread and continuous cramping.
- The dehydration means the body has lost too much fluid.
- Some diseases such as diabetes , liver cirrhosis, Parkinson’s disease, etc.
Do medications cause muscle cramps?
Many drugs can cause cramps. Diuretics such as furosemide (Apotex) cause the loss of body fluids and can cause cramping, because they impoverish the body from fluids and sodium.
Diuretics often cause the loss of potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Medications such as donepezil (Aricept, used for Alzheimer’s disease) and raloxifene (Evista, used to prevent osteoporosis) can cause cramping.
Tolcapone (Tasmar) used for Parkinson’s disease causes this problem in approximately 10% of patients.
Cramps have been observed with taking nifedipine (Adalat and other medications are used for angina, high blood pressure and other diseases) and with some medications for asthma.
Some medications used to reduce cholesterol such as lovastatin (Taucor ®) can cause cramping.
Does vitamin deficiency cause muscle cramps?
A low level of vitamins in the blood can lead directly or indirectly to muscle cramps.
Thiamine (B1), pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6) have a role in the appearance of the problem, although the mechanism is unknown.
Signs and symptoms of muscle cramps
Generally a cramp is very painful and those affected must stop the activities they are doing.
When the cramps arrive, the affected muscle can not be used.
In some severe cases, they can be associated with severe pain and swelling that can last up to several days after the disappearance of the cramp.
At the time the cramp occurs, the muscle is hard, painful, and a lump may be felt.
There are no special tests for cramps. However, the diagnosis is relatively easy. Most people know what cramps are and when they have one.
If the doctor is present during a cramp, you can feel the swelling and the hardness of the muscle.
Medications are usually not necessary for the treatment of a cramp because it usually disappears spontaneously before absorbing the medication.
The treatment of cramps that are associated with specific medical conditions usually focuses on the treatment of the underlying disease.
Sometimes, specific additional medications are prescribed for this problem.
In recent years, injections of therapeutic doses of botulinum toxin (Botox) have been successfully carried out in some localized problems of muscle dystonia.
A good response can last several months and the infiltration can be repeated.
Natural remedies for muscle cramps
Massage helps to relax the muscle, like the application of heat.
Tape for contractures and calf cramps.
Action: descontracturante. Form: A “Y” strip. Length: from below the heel to the popliteal fossa. Apply the tape without tension, starting from just below the heel and extending the calf. With the tape wrap the outer part of the twins muscle bellies.
If cramping is related to fluid loss, as often occurs during vigorous physical activity, it is necessary to replenish fluids and mineral salts, especially sodium and potassium.
Of course, if the cramps are frequent, severe and persistent, if they do not respond well to routine treatments or are not associated with an obvious cause, the patient and the doctor should consider a more aggressive treatment or that the cramps are the symptom of another disease
The possibilities are many, the patient may have problems of:
Another important aspect of the prevention of nocturnal cramps is the intake of magnesium and additional calcium.
The levels in the blood may not be adequate for the needs of the body.
Prevention of leg cramps
Until the exact cause of muscle cramps is known, it is difficult to understand how they can be prevented.
Kinesio tape for the quadriceps
Combined application of vast medial and vast lateral. Useful in case of fatigue in the quadriceps, double contracture of the quadriceps external and internal or for muscular rigidity .
Both experts and athletes suggest some tips:
- Improve physical condition and avoid muscle fatigue.
- Follow a gradual training program to avoid excessive efforts if you are not ready.
- Perform the stretch regularly after exercise.
- Do a good warm-up before training and competitions, especially for legs.
- Stretch the calf muscle: keep the position used to stretch the muscles, therefore stand with one leg forward bent and the other back with the knee extended.
- Stretching the biceps femoral muscle: the best position to not tire your back is to be sitting on the floor with your legs straight, you have to try to touch the tips of your feet with your hands.
- Stretch the quadriceps muscle: stand, grasp the instep of the foot with the opposite hand and gently pull the heel towards the buttocks (Repeat with the opposite leg).
Most muscle cramps are not serious.
If they are very painful, frequent or cause concern you should consult the doctor.
Do not eat before doing physical activity or you have to limit yourself to foods that are digested quickly, such as fruit.
The diet can be modified, especially in the summer to maintain an adequate level of vitamins, antioxidants and mineral salts (potassium, magnesium and calcium).
Bananas are rich in potassium, milk and dairy products contain a lot of calcium, while for magnesium it is recommended to eat whole grains and nuts: walnuts, dried almonds, wheat bran, raw beans, roasted peanuts, millet peeling and corn
If treatments are not performed, a muscle that suffers a cramp will be painful for several days because a contracture remains.
Physiotherapy is very useful because it loosens muscle contracture and prevents additional problems in the future.
The physiotherapist can perform massage therapy or tecartherapy to relax the muscles.