Leg cramps are common, and although can be quite painful, are generally not a serious condition. They tend to increase as we get older.
PreventionSome people complain of leg cramps after exercise. This may be partly due to inadequate stretching before exercise and muscle fatigue due to exercise. If you aim to become fitter with likes of extra walking or swimming, your muscles will become more accustomed to the increased exercise and you should find leg cramps reducing. To help prevent cramps, it is important to do warm ups including stretches before and after exercise.
Dehydration plays a major role in cramps after exercise. When you exercise you lose fluid, which can upset calcium and phosphorous levels in the body and can trigger cramps. Make sure you drink plenty of fluid before, during and after exercise.
Heavy or tight bed clothes can force the toes downwards, stretching the leg muscles. Sleeping under a light, loose duvet may help.
Other treatmentsIf the above advice does not work, you may like to try Crampex® tablets. It is an over the counter treatment available in pharmacies, it works by improving circulation. Quinine can be used to prevent leg cramps, especially at night. Quinine should only be considered if all other efforts fail and is only available with a doctor’s prescription. Quinine can cause dizziness and blurred vision occasionally so caution is advised. Tonic water contains very small amounts quinine, so it may be enough to relieve night cramps.
Can there be another cause?On rare occasions, leg cramps can be a sign of arteriosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. In this condition, the arteries become clogged by fatty deposits such as cholesterol, limiting the supply of blood to the muscles. As blood supply is limited, the muscles can’t get enough oxygen during activities like walking resulting in cramps. In mild cases, you may notice your legs are cold and your skin is dry. In more severe cases, the leg may become blue and ulcerated. Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are all risk factors for atherosclerosis. Get checked by your GP if arteriosclerosis is a possibly.
Eamonn Brady is a pharmacist and the owner of Whelehans Pharmacy,
Mullingar. If you have any health questions e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
More detailed information on leg cramps is available at www.whelehans.ie or ask in Whelehans.Disclaimer: Please ensure you consult with your healthcare professional before making any changes recommended