During a leg cramp, your leg muscle contracts suddenly without warning, resulting in immediate pain and often the involuntary spasm of your leg or foot. Although it's difficult to pinpoint the cause of every cramp, some well-known triggers may be causing occasional or chronic leg cramping episodes. Nearly everyone suffers one or more leg cramps at some point in life but some people experience frequent cramping that may result in sore leg muscles.
Many leg cramps occur at night, often as you're just drifting off to sleep or in the morning before you're fully awake. Other leg cramps occur during strenuous physical exercise, especially during hot weather or immediately after you complete the exercise and sit down to relax.
Some physical conditions may increase the incidence of leg cramping. According to MayoClinic.com, a woman is more likely to suffer from a leg cramp if she's pregnant and patients with diabetes have an increased risk of cramping. Those who suffer from arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) may experience reduced blood flow to the legs and frequent cramps.
Competing in strenuous physical activities may bring on a leg cramp, especially if your leg muscles are fatigued from the exercise. Alternately, prolonged sitting may decrease the blood flow to the legs and initiate a cramp.
Not drinking a sufficient amount of water to replace the fluids your body expends can bring on a cramping episode. In addition, diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours may result in dehydration and cramping. Keep plenty of fresh water on hand and sip it throughout the day to reduce your risk.
Eating a well balanced diet may reduce leg cramping if your body is deficient in calcium, potassium or magnesium. A multivitamin that includes these three minerals may reduce leg cramping in those who find it hard to eat healthy at every meal.
A spinal injury that results in pressure in the lumbar portion of the spine may produce leg cramps that become progressively worse the longer you stand or walk. Frequent rests and elevating your feet may help. See your doctor if the leg cramps leave your muscles sore or if the occur more often than once a week.
Drink plenty of fluids during the day and take a multivitamin to supplement your nutrition. Take the time to stretch your leg muscles gently before and after strenuous exercise and use hot compresses on tender leg muscles to ease a cramp. When a night cramp strikes, grab the bottom of your foot and gently pull your toes towards you to encourage your calf muscle to lengthen and relax. Use gentle massages to encourage a leg cramp to relax.