Article by Richard N. Ash M.D.
Everyone experiences muscle cramps from time to time. Perhaps your neck gets cramped after a day at your desk or you get a leg cramp after exercise. When you've been sedentary for a long time. Some women get leg cramps after wearing high heels. The solution to most of these common cramps is to stretch the muscles regularly, and, in the case of high heels, avoid them.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps
There is another, more troubling kind of cramp that my patients often ask about: nocturnal leg cramps. Just as you've fallen into a deep, comfortable sleep, you're wakened by a severe and painful cramping of your calf muscle. Most people leap out of bed and hop around on the affected leg until the cramp goes away. But occasionally it returns. Sometimes the cramp is in the thigh, and sometimes in the foot. In any case, It's annoying and painful.
Check Your Prescription Drugs For A Possible Cause
The first thing to check if you have leg cramps is your prescription drugs. Some can cause cramping; your doctor can tell you the side effects of your medication. Diuretics taken for high blood pressure or heart disorders, for example, can cause an imbalance of your potassium and magnesium levels. A blood test can tell you if this is a problem, and if it is, supplements of the appropriate mineral will alleviate the symptoms.
The most common cause of nocturnal leg cramps is calcium deficiency. If you are postmenopausal, trying to lose weight, or don't consume enough calcium, you are vulnerable to developing leg cramps. It's quite alarming to realize the extent of calcium deficiency in our population, particularly among women. While leg cramps are just an annoyance, another result of calcium deficiency--osteoporosis--is a crippling disease that can be prevented. To relieve leg cramps and prevent the long-term problems associated with calcium deficiency, begin now to increase your calcium consumption. If you're avoiding fat, try nonfat yogurt and skim milk. In addition, I've had great success with patients who complain of leg cramps by advising them to take a calcium supplement at bedtime.
Pregnant women are sometimes vulnerable to leg cramps, which usually occur with the changes in their calcium metabolism. Calcium supplements can help. Taking calcium daily should give relief. Please check with your obstetrician before beginning the supplement and check to see what amount of calcium, if any, there is an any pregnancy vitamin you may be taking.
Another help for nocturnal leg cramps is vitamin E. In one study of 125 patients with nocturnal leg and foot cramps, all but 2 had complete or nearly complete relief from their symptoms when they took vitamin E supplements. In most cases, the symptoms returned when the supplements were discontinued.
Sugar & Caffeine
Because as it has been shown that sugar and caffeine reduce the absorption of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, I advise patients with cramping problems to eliminate as much sugar and caffeine as possible from the diet.
In Addition To Your Daily Supplements, Take:
- Calcium: 1,200 mg. at bedtime, if no results, you can discontinue but be sure that you are getting 1,200 mg, of calcium daily through diet and/or other supplements. For pregnant women: Check with your doctor before beginning supplementation.
- Vitamin E: 400 I.U. twice a day after meals for two weeks. If symptoms are relieved, cut down to 400 I.U. once a day, If symptoms recur, up the dosage until symptoms are relieved but never take more than 1,200 I.U. daily.
- Magnesium: 400 mg. daily.
- Vitamin A: 10,000 I.U. daily.
- Potassium: 100 mg./daily.
What You Can Do To Stop Cramps When They Occur
- When your calf muscles cramp, flex your foot up (when standing point your toes to the ceiling and hold until the cramping stops) or (when lying down point your toes toward your head and hold until the cramping stops)
- Apply heat to cramping muscles
- Massage the cramped muscles
- Make sure you eat plenty of potassium rich foods.
- Diabetics should look for vegetables that are high in potassium.
Leg Cramp Information: Jon Barron 10/22/2006 - Restless Legs Syndrome, Natural Alternative
Leg Cramp Information: Caleb Treeze Organic Farm