LEG cramps are a common condition, but it can be excruciatingly painful when your muscles tighten up.
Here’s what causes cramps in your legs and feet, and how you get rid of them.
Cramp is a common and very painful condition – which especially affects those over the age of 60 and pregnant womenCredit: Getty – Contributor
What causes cramp in your legs and feet?
Leg cramps can occur for no apparent reason, but sometimes there can be a medical cause known as secondary leg cramps.
During a cramp, your muscles suddenly shorten and contract – causing pain.
This is known as a spasm, and can last anywhere from a few seconds up to 10 minutes.
Causes include taking statins and other medicines, liver disease, alcoholism, dehydration, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disorders (e.g. motor neurone disease) and having flat feet.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is also a cause of cramps and can be an early warning sign of a deadly stroke or heart attack.
Adults over the age of 60 and pregnant women are especially prone. A third of expectant mums get cramps in the last trimester.
Both inactivity and over-exercising can also cause cramping.
How do I get rid of leg cramps?
You only need to see your GP if your leg cramps are very frequent, severe and are affecting your quality of life, or your sleep.
Most episodes can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles, by doing a calf stretch, and/or massaging the muscle.
Taking a warm bath or using an ice pack can help.
You should also drink plenty of fluids, especially isotonic sports drinks like Lucozade.
Most people only need medication in the worst cases.
Why do I get leg cramps at night?
Nocturnal leg cramps can be a big disturbance when it comes to sleeping through the night.
They are most likely caused by the long period of inactivity.
If you get cramps at night, it’s a good idea to stretch before bed – as well as keeping your sheets loose.
If you lie on your back, try to make sure your feet are pointed towards the ceiling. And, if you lie on your front, dangle them off the end of the bed.