Help for Leg Cramps

Relief could come from water & diet

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night with a painful leg cramp? If you're like many people, your answer is an excruciating yes. So, what can be done when one hits to give you relief as soon as possible? 

Some of us call them "charlie horses" but whatever you call leg cramps, they can trigger intense pain. It motivated Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller to look into some of the causes and preventive measures to avoid the pain.

It happens to almost all of us. You're in the middle of a good night's sleep after a long day and then suddenly... "It just hurts. It's not a nice feeling," said Ashley Armitage of Larksville. Out of nowhere, the muscles of your calf become hard, tight and painful and you are rudely awakened from your slumber. Ms. Armitage said, "They're hard to get rid of. You don't really know how to get rid of them."

Aubriana Brace of Kingston has also experience leg cramps. "It feels like you need to get up and walk around and move your leg in order to get rid of the cramp," she said. Whether that cramp hits one of your legs or feet, you just can't get it to stop fast enough.

"Everyone's different. Everyone has a different issue as to reasons why they have leg cramps," said Commonwealth Health Family Physician Charles Manganiello, MD. One reason could be overuse of muscles. Another could be you're not drinking enough water. Dr. Manganiello said, "If you hydrate properly, what you do is you improve function, you improve circulation."

You might also be lacking electrolytes including sodium, potassium and magnesium which allow your muscles to contract so you can move. Supplements can help and so can your diet. Adding soup and cheese can increase your sodium intake, while eating such foods as dark leafy greens, avocados and bananas can boost  your magnesium and potassium but Dr. Manganiello cautioned "We have to be careful though because some people have other medical issues."

Another cause of those painful leg cramps could be the medicine you're taking. Medications could include those to reduce cholesterol levels and body fluid or even taking hormones. Dr. Manganiello recommends discussing it with your doctor. "Maybe changing your medicine that could help you."

Dr. Manganiello says sometimes cutting too many carbs while trying to lose weight can also trigger leg cramps. Overall, a good muscle stretch and either hot or cold compresses can relieve the pain. If the pain persists, contact your doctor.


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