When we use our muscles that can be controlled voluntarily (arms and legs), they contract and relax alternately as we move our arms and legs. Similarly, the muscles that support our head, neck, neck and trunk are synchronized to hold our posture. When a muscle or just a few fibers of it that contracts involuntarily, it is called a spasm, and if this is forceful and sustained, it turns into a cramp. Therefore a leg cramp is an unwillingly and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. Leg cramps can last from just a few seconds to fifteen minutes. On the other hand, the entire, or several muscles may be involved in a leg cramp. Leg cramps pain especially in the calf.
Causes of Leg Cramps
Leg Cramps involve part or all of a single muscle or a group of muscles that in general act together. Most doctors agree that these cramps are caused by hyper excitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles. Leg cramps are usually caused by:
Injury: A persistency muscle spam could happen as a protective mechanism following an injury such as a fractured bone. In this case, the spam tends to lower its movement and stabilize the area of injury. A muscle injury may cause the muscle to spasm.
Vigorous Activity: Leg cramps are linked with the vigorous use of muscles or muscle fatigue in sports or with unusual strenuous activities. Such cramps may appear during the activity or sometimes much later. Muscle fatigue also may come from sitting or lying for an extended period in an awkward position or any repetitive use can cause cramps. The elderly are at risk for cramps when performing forceful physical activities.
Rest Cramps. Particularly in the elderly, cramps at rest (often at night) are very common although may be experienced at any age even in childhood. They are very disruptive of sleep and disturbing. They sometimes persist frequently and are very painful. The real cause of night cramps is unknown. An example is pointing the toe down while laying in bed, which shortens the calf muscle, a common place for cramps.
Dehydration: Sports and vigorous activities can cause excessive fluid loss from perspiration which increases the likelihood of leg cramps. Leg cramps are more likely in warm weather and can be an early sign of heart stroke. Chronic volume depletion of body fluids from diuretics and poor fluid intake may act similarly to predispose to cramps in the elderly. Loss of sodium is usually a function of dehydration.
Low Blood Calcium, Magnesium: These may be predisposing factors for the spontaneous leg cramps experienced by many older adults, as well as for those noted during pregnancy
Contractures: Results when the muscles of the leg are unable to relax. The constant spasms are cause by a depletion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy chemical within the cell. This prevents muscle fiber relaxation. The nerves are inactive in the form of muscle spam. Contractures can be inherited or acquired.
An Effective Way to Prevent Leg Cramps
A good way to prevent leg cramps is to maintain the muscles relaxed avoiding spasms. As a result you will be able to sleep comfortably and wake up totally energized. Now you can achieve this by using an orthopedic pillow like the Leg Wedge Pillow- This affordable dual purpose, contour leg spacer knee wedge and leg elevation pillow is designed to fit the natural curves of your body and legs, cradling you in comfort.