Leg cramps are an involuntary contraction of a single muscle or a group of muscles in the leg. These are usually painful and extremely discomforting. Leg cramps often occur in elderly patients though age is no criteria as it is often seen in young people too. Leg cramps generally occur in the calf muscle, the hamstring and the quadriceps. The duration of a leg cramp ranges from less than a minute to several minutes at times.

Leg Cramps Symptoms

Leg cramps are characterized by the following symptoms
Severe leg pain.
Muscle tenderness.
Inability to move the leg for the duration the cramp lasts.

Exact cause of a leg cramp is extremely difficult to pinpoint

The exact cause of a leg cramp is extremely difficult to pinpoint, some of the factors leading to the same are as follows -
Muscle fatigue due to overexertion
Rigorous exercises
Excess weight
Electrolyte, hormonal or fluid imbalances
Side effects of certain medicines such as diuretics.
An unusual or a different exercise than what is done normally.
Diminished blood supply.
Nerve abnormalities.
Nerve and muscle diseases.

Massaging the muscle

What to do when you get a leg cramp?
Stretch the sore muscle, follow your instinct, your body will automatically guide you in the correct manner.
Massage the cramped muscle gently in the natural direction of the muscle. This helps relax the contraction and ease the pain.
A hot shower or warm bath is a good way to relax the muscle.
Use cold packs on the affected muscle. This relaxes the tensed muscles.
For a cramped calf muscle, stretch and massage the leg by straightening it and pointing the toes upward, towards the head.
Use a warm towel or heating pad to alleviate pain or tenderness following a cramp.

Diet rich in potassium and calcium

Increase water consumption to stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Potassium and calcium rich foods will keep the level of these two much required nutrients at optimum levels preventing cramping episodes.

Stay hydrated during work

Some preventive measures -
Dehydration causes leg cramps. It is especially important to stay well hydrated during workouts.
Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising.
Stretching prior to starting your exercise routine is extremely important.
Stretches help relax muscles and thus prevent leg cramps.
When beginning a workout regime, it is imperative that you do so gradually. A sudden increase or changes in physical activity levels can cause leg cramps. Keep rolled up bed sheets or blankets at your feet to prevent your toes and feet from pointing downward while you are asleep. Riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime could prevent cramps from developing during the night.