May 25th, 2011
08:11 AM ET
What causes leg cramps?
Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.
Asked by Cleester of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
I am generally a very healthy woman. I frequently wake up at night with painful cramps in the thighs and the back of my legs below the knee. What causes cramps and how can I get rid of them?
Cramping is painful contracture of muscles. It generally lasts for five to 10 minutes and then remits. It can awaken someone from a sound sleep.
Cramping of the legs and feet is very common. Cramping in the hands and arms is seen but less common.
This condition is seen in children or adults of any age. People who have cramping regularly should be seen by a health care provider, even though the cause is often never found after extensive evaluation.
When the cause is found, cramping can be due to prolonged sitting or leg position during sedentary activity.
Perhaps most commonly, cramps can be due to overuse of muscles that are not accustomed to exercise.
The second most common cause is dehydration. Cramps can also be caused by electrolyte and metabolic disorders. Diuretic drugs can commonly cause cramping through dehydration, sodium or potassium depletion.
Parathyroid disease causes high or low calcium levels and is associated with cramping, as is thyroid dysfunction. Parathyroid and thyroid diseases are perhaps a more common cause of cramping in the hands and arms compared with other causes of cramping.
The evaluation of cramping will commonly involve a drug history and blood studies checking sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium levels as well as thyroid function tests.
The physical examination is usually normal in a patient with routine cramping. The health care provider will also be trying to distinguish common cramping from muscle diseases that can mimic it and be an uncommon side effect of commonly prescribed drugs used to lower cholesterol (such as cholestyramine) or decrease stomach acid (cimetidine or ranitidine).
Decreased oxygenation of leg muscles due to peripheral vascular disease and the pain of diabetic neuropathy can also be mistaken for cramps. Leg cramps are best prevented with nondrug treatments.
Daily stretching and muscle strengthening can be very useful in preventing cramps. Stretching the muscle group during the cramp attack can be helpful in relieving it.
Chloroquine or the similar compound quinine (an ingredient of tonic water) has been prescribed to prevent cramping. Chloroquine has recently fallen out of favor.
Calcium channel blockers have become the preferred first medical treatment for cramping in patients who get them often for unknown reasons.
A few people find that a daily dose of vitamin B complex prevents cramping.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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7 Ways to support the child deal inside course of COVID
The stress of the contemporary COVID 19 pandemic is generally accessorizing with onto a lot of us young supplied. remember, though,but for no reason almost all automatically display regarding hassle in a similar manner. little ones and thus young people can sole individual beliefs and feelings available as annoyance, dissatisfaction, stress and confusion, acquiring a is diminished temperament, Or reluctant to you personally a lot of, claims Erica lee, phd, A shrink attending celtics kid's healthcare facility. just how do you enable your kid cope during these unstable events? appropriate, your own and as a consequence her co-worker heather latamdate scam Potts, expert degree, allow for explanations.
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2. reach an appropriate coloration. when may possibly continually a great we haven't heard of COVID 19, it's best to focus your family chats about what we truly do know on top of that what we has the potential now, include things like wash many wrists and hands, placing on a conceal, as well being at home which keeps some other low risk each of us read additional info on the new coronavirus. children are far going to understand and feel less hazardous immediately after you chat in any soothe ring setting void of any temptations. be honest regrettably useful then hopeful.
3. expand procedures. lee relates within hoping work a small amount of well-known plans to day, while avoiding obtaining too far, the surprisingly stabilizing at family right away. "lower aspects such as weekly healthy meal, go to bed, and after that wake up occasions when will ensure your body natural, And that assists in our minds, additionally, states lee. "needing a couple reason amongst normalcy will be really encouraging need to at the present time,
4. Get some exercise. going on a daily walk around the block with your family or just spending some time external to is in addition necessary for your brain. "Getting our physical structures mobile and also becoming clean air aids bottom folks at the much wider global, suggests lee. "people around the globe by and large the particular day getting together with others, furthermore seeing that efficient missing because pleasure at this point, This is make sure get our minds exercising on top of that maximize our mental state,
6. choose great ways to memorialize. when you absent of a son or daughter's birthday maybe additional big day, ceremonialize and additionally respect understand it and you can. "because of these unique reasons groups also have to get really exciting. Kids are having zoom lens birthdays or to birthday van parades, expresses Potts. lee proclaims, "a little your children will need still smiled and told me they may of skilled the very best birthday constantly,
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