I was jarred out of my sleep the other night by what can only be described as the worst pain I have ever experienced. My hamstrings, the muscles in the back of my thigh, were cramping. I let out a scream normally heard from the likes of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. My hamstrings were rigidly holding my knee in a fully bent position. It took me a solid minute to gingerly straighten out my leg.
What is the cause of leg cramping?
I have heard many opinions, some plausible and some ridiculous. Here are a few of the more likely culprits:
Muscles that are not well-nourished can’t get rid of lactic acid and other metabolites that are by-products of muscle action. Water is vital for metabolism and overall muscle and joint health.
2. Micronutrient deficiency
A deficiency in potassium can bring on muscle cramps. Sodium and potassium in particular are involved in producing muscle contractions: an imbalance in these elements can cause a disruption in the way that muscle tissue contracts and relaxes.
3. Lack of blood flow
Lack of blood flow to the legs is commonly manifested with age and inactivity. A lack of oxygen carried from the blood to the muscles from the bloodstream can delay the removal of waste products from the tissue and facilitate cramping.
4. Chronic overuse of a muscle
In the clinic I have seen many patients who have calf muscles that cramp. Most of them have one thing in common: Weakness in the muscles higher up in the leg. Think of this as a form of compensation. A weak buttock or hamstrings means that some other muscle has to "pick up the slack" with repetitive activities such as walking. The calf muscle is often given this unwanted task.
If you suffer from occasional leg cramping, see if you have any of the above mentioned problems. Some of these causes are relatively easy to deal with (hydration and diet change). Others may require the input of a healthcare professional.
What have you tried to relieve muscle cramps? Talk about it in the comments below.
Important: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health. See More
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