What to do in a leg cramp? Around 40 percent of Germans repeatedly suffer from painful calf cramps. Most affected are athletes, many women, pregnant women and seniors. In many cases, leg cramps occur at night, thereby disturbing sleep.
How does it come to calf cramp?
Each muscle consists of countless muscle fibers that are connected to fine nerves. Through these nerves, the brain sends a stimulus during a muscle movement, which stimulates the muscle fibers to contract. It comes to the desired muscle tension. Normally, a relaxation phase then occurs. But when an involuntary nerve stimulus occurs, the muscle can not relax - it tightens.
Common causes of calf cramps at a glance
The causes of calf cramps are usually harmless, but sometimes leg cramps may indicate a serious condition. Common causes of calf cramps include:
- Disorders in the electrolyte balance such as magnesium deficiency
- Overwork at work and during sport
- Long-term use of certain medications
- Circulatory disorders in the legs
- Nervous disorders in the muscle fibers
- Osteoarthritis in the knee joint
Disruptions in the electrolyte balance as a cause
Of a disturbance in the electrolyte balance athletes are particularly often affected. You lose a lot of fluid and many minerals by sweating during exercise. If the mineral storage is not refilled after training, it can lead to a lack of minerals. It is just the minerals for the control of muscle fibers of great importance. Because if minerals such as magnesium or potassium are missing, the tensing and relaxing of the muscles no longer works smoothly.
In addition to sweating during exercise, a disturbance in the electrolyte balance can also be caused by insufficient fluid intake, high fluid loss due to diarrhea or vomiting, and kidney disease. Also, certain medications such as laxatives may be a cause of leg cramps occurring at night.
A disturbance in the electrolyte balance can also cause calf cramps during pregnancy and in old age. Especially older people often do not eat well enough and take too little liquid. In addition, the nerve function decreases in old age, which favors the formation of calf cramps.
Since hormonal fluctuations can also affect the electrolyte balance, calf cramps can occur more often during pregnancy. To prevent this, the body should be supplied with enough magnesium, especially in the second half of the pregnancy.
Nerve damage as a cause of calf cramps
Anyone who suffers from calf cramps despite taking magnesium and other minerals should seek medical attention, as nerve damage can be a cause of calf cramps. Damage to the nerves can be caused mainly by metabolic diseases such as diabetes. In addition, the nerves can also be damaged by alcohol abuse or a kidney dysfunction.
Depending on what type of disease is present, either the nerves in the central nervous system or in the periphery can be damaged. As a result, the stimuli can no longer be correctly transmitted to the musculature and an excessive reaction of the musculature can occur. In addition, it can also happen that certain motor processes can not take place any more.
Muscle diseases as the cause of calf cramps
In rare cases, a disease of the musculature can be the cause of calf cramps. Such diseases are summarized under the collective term myotonia and are characterized by a pathologically prolonged muscle tension. This causes the calf cramp.
The cause of the prolonged muscle tension lies in the ion channels of the muscles. Here the nerve stimuli are picked up incorrectly or transmitted incorrectly. Often these disorders are hereditary.
Leg cramps: what to do?
- If a leg cramp occurs, cover the toes of the foot and pull with all your strength towards the tibia. If the spasm starts sitting or lying down, you should get up and walk around. Firmly hit the ground or with the sole of your foot against the wall. With a massage of the calf and a warm shower you can relax the calf muscle again.
- As calf cramps can be the cause of various illnesses, you should have the cause cleared up by the doctor.
- For circulatory disorders ginkgo and garlic preparations help.
- Magnesium tablets from the pharmacy help with an existing magnesium deficiency.
- Nourish yourself with magnesium-rich whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid alcohol and nicotine.
- For leg cramps also helps regular foot exercises.