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Leg cramps cause intense, painful tightening of the calf or quadriceps muscles. They may occur as a side effect of physical activity or affect people during the night in the form of conditions like restless leg syndrome. Leg cramps are, at minimum, irritating, and at worst debilitating, and can be brought on by a variety of activities and issues.

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High-Intensity Exercise

One of the main causes of leg cramps is high-intensity training, which can overwork the muscles and cause painful contractions. When a person starts a new exercise program, it takes time for the body to adjust; similarly, becoming active after an extended period of rest can trigger a leg cramp. Sudden movements can force the muscles to adopt positions that increase the load on the lower body, thereby causing the legs to cramp. The best way to avoid painful episodes of cramped leg muscles after working out is to increase exercise intensity slowly.

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Fatigue

Leg cramps are more likely to occur when the body is overworked and lacking sufficient sleep. These factors raise a person's risk of developing cramps and other painful events because the muscles are tense and stressed and not receiving enough opportunity to relax. Sleep allows the muscles to rest and promotes the repair of damaged cells. Hydration and diet can also influence the likelihood of leg cramps. Fatigued and dehydrated muscles do not work as well and cannot use nutrients as effectively. They, therefore, need more nutrients than they consume.

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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis manifests with a variety of symptoms that affect the nervous system. These symptoms include muscle cramps, spasms, and twitching in the legs and feet. Depending on the severity of the condition, the cramped muscles may feel tingly, painful, and sore. In more severe cases, the individual will temporarily lose control over the muscle.

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Shoes that Do Not Fit

Wearing the wrong footwear is detrimental to the feet, legs, and body as a whole. If worn continuously, poor-fitting shoes can impact the legs; the wrong size shoes affects the position of the leg muscles, causing pain and spasms. High heels are a major cause of leg cramps, as are some running shoes.

Standing or Sitting for Too Long

Optimal blood flood in the legs requires regular movement of the leg muscles, in addition to sufficient rest. Remaining immobile for long periods can cause muscle cramps later in the day. People who stand behind a till or sit at a desk for hours each day are susceptible to leg cramps. Ideally, individuals should walk or stretch the legs regularly throughout the workday.

Overuse of the Muscles

Overuse of the muscles can cause the same effects underuse, increasing instances of leg cramping, regardless of hydration and rest. For example, running too long can lead to cramped legs due to muscle fatigue. Athletes should stretch before exercising and cool down after to reduce the likelihood of painful cramping.

Dehydration

The amount of water in the body affects all aspects of health, from kidney function to cognitive ability. The muscles are also significantly influenced by fluid levels, so much so that low levels of hydration can lead to muscle cramps. Drinking too little water disrupts electrolyte balances, leading to muscle fatigue and cramps. Sweating and high temperatures may increase the likelihood of cramps, so it is important to ensure proper hydration on hot days and when working out.

Mineral Deficiencies

A lack of minerals such as calcium or iron can increase the change of muscle cramps. When electrolytes are low, imbalances can lead to muscle pain. Fruits and vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and electrolytes, are an essential part of every diet. After exercising, sports drinks and other beverages or foods can help replenish electrolyte levels.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis affects millions of older adults. The most common symptoms are stiff and achy joints, but some people also report muscle spasms and leg cramps, which may indicate pinched nerves or another form of nerve damage. People with osteoarthritis who develop muscle cramps should speak to a medical practitioner.

Certain Medications

Medication can affect the muscles of the legs and trigger painful spasms and cramps. Blood pressure treatments, for example, sometimes induce leg cramps. Experts believe this is due to their diuretic effect, which results in reduced fluid levels that can lead to cramps if hydration is not maintained. If a person experiences cramps after beginning a new medication, they should speak to their doctor.

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.