Aug 11

Leg Cramp Relief

Chances are that you have probably experienced painful leg cramps, especially at night. Medicine still isn't sure what causes these cramps, but they may be related to nerve and muscle irritation because of disc disease or joint dysfunction in people over age 50. In other words, if you have a degenerating disc in your back you are more prone to cramping in the calf.

You are also more likely to have more frequent leg cramps if you have diabetes or some type of nerve disorder. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 or vitamin D, which are common in older women, is another possibility. And diuretics or water pills, such as the ones taken to control blood pressure, may cause you too lose too much fluid and cramp.

There's more. If you're one of those week-end warriors or you've just been over doing your exercise or you've been holding a leg muscle in one position for too long, like you sometimes do in yoga, you may also be prone to frequent leg cramps. Statin medication have also been linked to muscle injury and leg cramps.

The medical literature says that if your legs cramp once in a while, you don't have to worry. That describes me fairly well. My doctor says to get up and walk around. Not a problem. When I get a leg cramp I become wide awake very quickly. It is painful. I find that standing on my toes along with rubbing the cramped area helps relieve my very angry calf muscle.

Other possibilities for relief are to take a warm bath before bed or simply stretch your calf muscles. Most physicians aren't worried about the cramps unless they become more frequent. You can ask for a blood test to see if you have a vitamin deficiency that can be corrected quickly.

At one time quinine as an "off label" use was recommended for leg cramps but that was banned in December, 2006, by the FDA because of serious allergic reactions and other side effects.

One of the best remedies I can suggest is to stretch your calves after you walk or exercise. My favorite is placing the ball of a foot up against a step, keeping the leg straight and holding the position for about 20 seconds. The next is just alternating standing on my toes up and down for 20 times. That works for me and maybe it will help you. Let me know.

To your successful aging.

Ruthan Brodsky

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