Leg cramps can stop you in your tracks or wake you from sleep with sudden pain. The pain is usually fleeting and the muscle spasm relents. But when leg cramps are recurrent, it’s essential to visit a vein treatment specialist to check for vascular issues and Chronic Venous Insufficiency. Read on to learn about the various causes of leg cramps and the treatments our Texas Vein Treatment Center recommends.
What Is a Leg Cramp?
Muscles contract either voluntarily or involuntarily. When you lift a bag of groceries, your brain wills your arm muscles to contract to complete the task. This is done voluntarily. Involuntary muscle contractions are those that occur without our conscious control, like the cardiac muscle pumping our blood, or the intestinal smooth muscles digesting our food.
Sometimes, a voluntary muscle contracts involuntarily, such as the calf muscle spasm called a “charley horse.” These contractions might have a long duration, averaging 9 minutes, causing the muscle to temporarily harden or form a lump beneath the skin. Several muscles might cramp simultaneously, or they might contract individually. While most leg cramps resolve in a matter of minutes, your leg might feel sore for 24 hours after an intense cramp.
Muscle cramps are more common as we age and don’t just occur in the legs. Most people will have a leg cramp at least once in their lifetime. But if you’re noticing frequent leg cramps, especially while sleeping or resting, your vascular health might be compromised. Consult our Texas vein treatment experts to determine whether your leg cramps are linked to unhealthy veins.
Leg Cramp Symptoms
Here are four common leg cramp (charley horse) symptoms:
- Sudden, intense pain or discomfort
- Muscle weakness, fatigue, or restricted muscle control
- Hardened muscle or lump beneath your skin
- Cramping that recurs in brief intervals
Leg Cramp Causes
Many things cause occasional leg cramps, like overexertion and standing in one position for too long. Infrequent leg cramps are typically not of medical concern and might not have a known cause (idiopathic).
However, if your leg cramps are frequent, a cause must be determined. Leg cramps caused by serious health issues, like Chronic Venous Insufficiency, require medical attention since they are secondary to an underlying problem.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
When valves fail inside our veins, blood collects beneath those valves (Chronic Venous Insufficiency) prompting lactic acid to build up and cause cramps in your legs.
When plaque accumulates in your arteries, it restricts the flow of blood. This obstruction causes a type of severe leg cramps that occur during exercise or exertion, known as claudication.
Magnesium, potassium, and calcium are essential to our muscles. Calcium helps muscles contract and potassium and magnesium help them relax. An inadequate diet and diuretics like blood pressure medicines can cause deficiencies in these minerals and lead to leg cramps.
Risk Factors for Leg Cramps
Each of us will endure a leg cramp at some point in our lives. Whether we overdo it at the gym or work a long shift on our feet, leg cramps aren’t entirely avoidable. But here are some factors that increase your risk.
Pregnancy Leg Cramps
Pregnancy increases the volume of blood flowing through your veins, which elevates blood pressure. Hormonal changes and weight gain during pregnancy also increase blood pressure, contributing to vein-related leg cramps.
Age-Related Leg Cramps
As we age, our muscles weaken, especially if we’re sedentary. As a result, more adults (50-60%) experience frequent cramping than children (7%).
Nocturnal Leg Cramps
When you get a leg cramp at night, it’s typically caused by inactivity. Muscle contractions help pump blood out of your veins and resting reduces those contractions. This is exacerbated by inactivity while awake, like sitting at a desk or driving a truck all day.
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Can Leg Cramps Be Prevented?
Are you frustrated by frequent nocturnal leg cramps and sciatic leg pain?
Here are five tips to prevent leg cramps from recurring.
- Hydration: Drinking water is key to preventing leg cramps caused by loss of electrolytes.
- Proper Nutrition: Consume colorful fruits and vegetables to maintain your mineral balance and prevent deficiencies.
- Lightweight Bedding: Avoid heavy bedspreads and tightly tucked sheets, which keep your leg muscles trapped and inactive while you sleep.
- Intermittent Movement: Voluntary muscle contractions help prevent involuntary spasms. Stand up from your desk and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes. If you must stand for long periods, stretch and flex your legs muscles intermittently.
Leg Massage & Stretching: Each day, when you wake up and before you go to sleep, stretch and gently massage your feet and legs to facilitate blood flow and prevent cramps.
Leg Cramp Remedies to Try at Home
Leg cramps can strike in an instant. Try these home remedies to relieve the pain, and visit us if they persist.
Take a hot shower or bath, or apply a heated towel or heating pad to the cramped leg muscle.
Stabilize yourself by holding onto a chair and then try these solutions.
- For a leg cramp in your quadricep, pull the foot of the affected leg up behind you toward your buttock.
- For a “charley horse” calf cramp, sit with both legs outstretched. Wrap a towel around the affected foot and point the toes toward your calf. Grab the towel and lift the foot upward, keeping the leg straight.
Professional massage is not required; you can try this technique yourself. Apply gentle pressure in a kneading motion to the muscle that’s cramped.
Long-Term Treatment for Leg Cramps
If your leg cramps stem from Chronic Venous Insufficiency or another health issue, home remedies won’t provide long-term relief and might postpone a diagnosis.
If cramping is frequent or persistent, visit our Texas Vein Treatment Clinic today. We use cutting-edge technology to diagnose and treat the cause of painful leg cramps.
Regain your Self-Confidence
We treat all our patients like they’re our only patients. Our vein doctors listen to your problems and examine your medical history to diagnose a treatment plan that’s meant just for you. They actively seek minimally-invasive treatments that conclude within an hour.
Regain your self-confidence and say goodbye to those welts and marks on your skin! Book a consultation at our vein treatment clinic in Houston today!