Home Remedies for Leg Cramps
Have you seen athletes running gloriously on the field and suddenly catching hold of their thighs or calves and almost falling down in deep grief?
The video above shows one such incident of the 1992 Olympics where Derek Redmond was on his was on his way to win a 400m race. His dreams shattered in a few seconds when he got a leg cramp in form of a hamstring strain.
Popular as Charley Horses, leg cramps, this invisible paining hell to the muscles, is a big distress for anyone irrespective of their age, physique, physical condition. These irregular muscle movements of contraction make us stop any activity we are doing and forces us to sit down to take some rest and bear some gruesome amount of pain. It is not restricted only to athletes or sportsmen, anyone doing some strenuous work at home can be prone to it. One can get cramps while doing activities like dashing around between rooms, using the lawn mower, taking the dog out for a walk etc. While the pain sensation is instant, it does take time to recover from it. Popping a pill, applying some gel is always what the TV ads would show but there are several home remedies that can cure the unbearable pain of the leg cramps.
What are the causes of leg cramps?
“The more a problem is, the more are its causes”, this line perfectly suits leg cramps. There are several medical conditions which can serve as potential cause for leg cramps. Some of them include diseases like diarrhea, cirrhosis, neural illness etc. Conditions like pregnancy, calcium deficiency, electrolyte imbalances can also cause cramps.
The process of Leg Cramps:
In the cases where one is fit enough and is not affected by any disease, leg cramps occur due to formation of a compound, lactic acid, in the calf-muscles. How and why is this compound formed? When the body does a more strenuous task, more energy is needed than the usual to meet the requirements. This energy production obviously needs more oxygen for reactions. That is why in strenuous tasks we tend to breathe more and more. In the cases when not enough amount of oxygen is supplied to the muscles, the energy production takes place in an anaerobic manner (reaction with less or no oxygen). Eventually, lactate, a carbon compound is formed as the product of these reactions.
Now, Lactate is known to disturb the acidic levels of the muscles and upset the metabolic synchronizations. In its acidic form i.e. Lactic acid, lactate disrupts down the energy production. When this process continues for a longer time (2 minutes or more), the muscles involved in the activity tend to cease down in their activity. This ceasing procedure causes a strong sensation making us stop the strenuous task. As soon as the task is stopped, the body returns to its normal oxygen intake and lactate gets sufficient oxygen for aerobic (oxygen presence) reactions.
So is lactate production bad for us?
Stephen M. Roth, professor at the Kinesiology Department at University of Maryland, defines lactate production to be a totally natural reaction of the human body. The human body takes the strenuous muscular tasks as something which can cause permanent damage to the muscles. Hence, it tends to cease the activity levels by producing lactate and its associated compounds.
Home Remedies for Leg Cramps
Before going for a relief treatment, one must make sure that where the cramp has occurred: calf muscles or the thigh.
Cramps Near the thigh region
(a) Immediate action to thigh cramps would be to move the cramped muscle in such a manner that it relaxes. Fold the leg, hold it from the knee and hold it keeping the knee pointed towards the chest.
(b) Slow massaging of the affected region would be very effective in dealing with muscle cramps.
(c) In cases when thigh cramps are highly intense and one cannot lie down to perform above mentioned exercises, he should stand still, hold the thigh and bend down slowly. The pain would eventually come down.
(d) The above methods are beneficial when the sufferer is alone and no one is there to help him. In the cases when someone is present, one can also lift his leg to a certain height and ask someone to hold it. The thigh muscles would relax down.
(e) Trying to walk off slowly can also be tried when the cramp is not that severe.
(f) When cramps occur in the gym or in a room, grab a wall nearby and push it. This is to be done in such a manner that the cramped leg is straight and tilted towards the wall while the other leg is bent and is placed closer to the wall.
Cramps in the calf region
(a) Cease the activity to avoid the cramp to become more intense. Then, give a mild stretch and try to touch the toe.
(b) Compress the muscles slowly giving them a massage like soothe.
(c) You can also stretch the leg muscles pointing the toe towards forward direction.
(d) Hold the calf muscle region and try to walk slowly. This would increase the blood circulation and pain would come down.
Common Practices in Thigh and Calf Cramp
There are some common practices that can reduce pain in the calf and thigh muscles. These include:
(a) Applying ice packs: Ice will stun down the region inhibiting the muscle contraction which causes cramp pains.
(b) Ointment Way: Rubbing up an ointment in the cramp prone area and covering it with a cloth would relieve the pain.
(c) Epsom Salt Bath: If the pain persists even after cramps go invisible, one should take a bath and mix some Epsom salt in water. This salt would relax down all the muscles of the body, thus easing down the pain too!!
(d) Take rest: Best solution is to stop working and just get to a bed or a comfortable couch nearby. Get a good nap or sleep. Sleeping would optimize the levels of the metabolic components and would give a good relaxation feeling to the muscles too.
Tips to Prevent Leg Cramps
A few factors are responsible for causing leg cramps where strenuous activities, body posture while relaxing, amount of food and fluid taken in stand as most critical ones.
(a) Including a good amount of water in the diet is a good solution to it. Teams in various sports encourage a high intake of fluid in form of energy drinks, water etc. in hot days. These are days when we sweat more and electrolyte balance of the body might get disturbed when too many physical tasks are carried on. More fluid would maintain electrolyte balance and cramps would not occur at all. Juices, tonic water, energy drinks etc. are included here.
(b) Eat those foods which are easy to be digested and assimilated. Foods containing unhealthy fats and cholesterol are difficult to digest and require more concentration of the body processes than the normal. This can eventually affect performance in strenuous activities. That is another reason why foods such as porridge, wheat bread, pulses etc. are more recommended.
(c) Medicine Watch: The frequency of cramps might increase when you start a new medicine. If this happens, inform your doctor immediately so that the medicine’s salt can be changed.
(d) Regular into exercises: Keeping the muscles regularly used to exercises would make the body used to strenuous work and hence, the fatigue would be less.