As many as 60% of American adults know the sensation of being jolted awake by the pain of a spasming calf muscle. Though leg cramps typically don’t last very long, you’re temporarily unable to use the cramped muscle and, of course, your sleep is disrupted.
Though the process behind leg cramps isn’t fully understood, in most cases the experience is harmless. Sometimes though, leg cramps can be severe or frequent enough to disrupt your life, or they’re associated with other symptoms that could indicate a more serious problem.
Venous insufficiency is often overlooked as the reason behind leg cramps. Choosing Dr. Clement Banda and the team at MD Vein and Skin Specialists to investigate your cramps may provide insight into your condition as well as treatment options to break the cramping cycle.
Understanding muscle cramps
Virtually any muscle in your body has the ability to cramp, but the phenomenon is usually experienced in leg muscles and most often in the calf, and overuse and dehydration are frequent contributors.
Certain medications can also deplete minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium that are crucial for cramp prevention. Nerve issues related to conditions such as diabetes, liver disorders, or spinal problems can also be a risk factor for leg cramps. Your thyroid gland could also be responsible.
However, the factor with the greatest potential for harm is problems with blood flow. Poor blood return to the heart from the legs through veins can cause significant leg cramps. This is most pronounced at night when the leg muscles are least active. Whereas the heart pumps blood away to body parts, leg muscles help pump blood back to the heart from the legs. When these muscles are least active (sleeping) the leg muscle pump is very inefficient. Cramping can be looked at as the body’s own defense mechanism to get the blood moving again. Hence the relief of cramps when one gets out of bed and walks around a bit.
When to see a doctor about leg cramps
Occasional leg cramps are rarely cause for concern, particularly when they follow periods of heavy use or exertion. Cramping during exercise that improves when you stop, however, could be a sign of narrowing of the arteries (an even more ominous problem). Cramping from vein disease tends to improve with exercise and activity. Cramping of this type is a strong sign you should visit Dr. Banda for an examination.
If you notice the intensity and/or frequency of your leg cramps increasing, this too could be a sign it’s time for a doctor visit. Schedule an appointment if your cramps are consistent and accompanied by certain other symptoms including:
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling in the leg or ankle
- Skin discoloration
- Cramps don’t diminish with home care
When cramps disturb your sleep enough so that daytime fatigue becomes an issue, you may need medical attention to restore your rest and recovery time.
Self-care to reduce cramping typically includes stretching and increased attention to hydration. Try leg stretches before activity or before bedtime to prevent cramps. Increasing your water intake may also help.
When these measures fail to produce results, contact MD Vein and Skin Specialists for an examination and diagnosis. Dr. Banda may be able to recommend additional measures, including vein treatments that can revitalize blood flow through your legs. Call the office directly, or request an appointment online today to stop leg cramps in their tracks.