Leg cramps are sudden and painful. They often occur when the body is at rest, typically during sleep. The muscle cramps can last for a few seconds or up to several minutes. Leg cramps, commonly referred to as charley horses, occur when muscles in the legs contract involuntarily. Muscle groups that mostly involved in leg cramps are calf (back of the lower leg), hamstrings (back of the thigh) and quadriceps (front of the thigh). Some people experience cramps even in their feet, sometimes on their toes.

What Causes Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are common, many people experience it occasionally, elderly people and pregnant women have a higher risk to develop the problem. The cause of leg cramps is not well understood, it may be associated with following factors:

  • Exercising, injury and overuse of muscles
  • Exposure to cold weather, especially to cold water
  • Improper posture of standing or sitting for long periods
  • Dehydration of the body, especially in hot weather
  • Poor blood flow in the legs (blood vessels narrowing in the legs)
  • Electrolyte imbalance or mineral deficiencies, particularly calcium and magnesium
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications such as diuretics, statins, lithium, prednisone and nicotinic acid
  • Health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disorder, liver cirrhosis, alcoholism, and/or hypothyroidism.

Personally, I experience leg cramps after I dance in 3-inch spikes for many hours. Obviously, I should refrain from wearing those highheels or dancing too much. At this point, I can’t give up either. Here are a few things I do to prevent and/or deal with leg cramps.

 

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