What Causes Leg Cramp?
Whether you are out walking or running, at your office desk or just laying down to sleep, leg cramp can be an annoying, sometimes incapacitating, part of day to day life. More often than not, leg cramp comes out of nowhere, and feels like nothing more than bad luck causes it to happen. Here we will look at some common causes of leg cramp, why some are more susceptible to leg cramp than others, and finally what can be done to help reduce the chance of cramp striking.
Currently, not all the causes for leg cramps are known, yet as science develops, more causes are being discovered. Here are a few causes of leg cramp that are commonly known:
Firstly, if there is a lack of blood flow in a particular part of the body, cramp can be a sign of this: this is quite common in your legs when exercising. During exercise, more blood is needed to be pumped and circulated around the body. If the blood cannot get to the places it needs to in time, and in the right quantity, then the result of this can often be cramp. Once you stop exercising, cramps related to this cause will soon go away as regular blood flow returns.
Secondly, nerve compression within your spine can, unknowingly, put extra pressure on your body while walking. This can be referred to as a trapped nerve, meaning that something has caused direct pressure on a nerve, normally due to a disc slippage in your back. This force puts more pressure on your legs when walking, making leg cramp more likely.
A cause that can be avoided more easily than these is cramp due to mineral depletion. This is when you have too few electrolytes in your diet. Electrolytes are minerals, including; calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium. Electrolytes are needed for regulating nerve and muscle functions, so if you’re running low on electrolytes, you are more susceptible to muscle problems such as leg cramp.
Factors that make you more susceptible to Leg Cramp
There are reasons why some people are more susceptible to leg cramp than others:
Age: As you get older, your muscle mass starts to become smaller. This means that the muscle that is left must work harder, and it can become overstressed more quickly than before, as a result, leg cramp can occur more quickly.
Dehydration: Generally the more dehydrated you are, the more likely leg cramp will occur, especially if you are exercising in some form or another.
Pregnancy: Cramps become a lot more common when you are pregnant, usually in the later stages of pregnancy. This is typically due to there being more pressure on blood vessels, restricting circulation.
Medical conditions: Conditions such as diabetes, liver damage or thyroid disorders can bring with them a much higher chance of leg cramp. This is because they contribute to irregular distribution of bodily fluids.
Medication: Also if you are taking diuretics such as; medication for those with high blood pressure, then you will be depleting your levels of electrolytes more quickly, leading to a greater chance of cramping.
One good habit to get into is to always stretch before exercise. The internet is inundated with stretching techniques that are paired to specific workouts. You can also find warming down routines, which allow your muscles to relax properly after a workout or run, meaning there is less chance they’ll seize up straight after exercise.
Replenishing your electrolytes can help treat and prevent most causes of cramp, this should be considered for day to day living as well as for exercise. This can be done simply by adding electrolyte supplements such as O.R.S to your glass of water. Electrolyte tablets will replenish all electrolytes that are needed to make sure you’re working as you should be. When embarking on a large physical challenge such as a marathon or triathlon, as there is a much higher chance of mineral depletion during these events and electrolyte supplements should be considered more as a necessity in these cases.
The most important solution for preventing cramps is to avoid dehydration. Being dehydrated can cause so many small effects both mentally and physically, that can easily snowball into something much bigger. It’s almost too easy in our busy lives to not to drink as much water as required, especially when exercising or in hot conditions. Therefore putting steps in place to ensure you’re rehydrating regularly is crucial in preventing leg cramp and other problems.