When you are in a groove during a workout at the gym, finishing a walk around, or even sleeping, suddenly you are doubted over the extreme leg pain. Say hello to the leg spasms. It is likewise called a “cramp.”
Leg spasms are a common problem that affects the claves, feet, and tight muscles. It involves sudden painful and involuntary contractions of a leg muscle. It often occurs while sleeping or resting and gets relaxed in a few seconds. It can last up to nine minutes and leave tenderness in the strength for about 24 hours.
There are no identifiable reasons why spasms happen in many cases, and they are harmless. But, it can be due to underlying chronic disorders such as peripheral artery disease or diabetes. The highs and calves are two of the most commonly affected areas. However, cramps can strike your arms, feet, hands, and abdomen. They can typically last from several seconds to a few minutes. You often feel a knot when you press the affected area.
Leg spasms can afflict anyone but are the most common in the very young and older adults, overweight and athletes. The causes for leg cramps run a wide range from the harmless to things you get checked.
How do my leg spasms get triggered?
In some cases, people do not know the exact reason for leg spasms. Although there are several studies that state muscle fatigue or nerve dysfunction plays a significant role in leg cramps. Sleeping with your foot stretched and the calf muscle shortened can also trigger your night cramps.
Another research state that spasms are more common nowadays, as many people no longer squat. The squat is a position that stretches the calf muscles. Stressing or using strength for a long duration can trigger your spasms during or after exertion. It can also affect athletes, especially at the start of a season, if their body is out of condition. Sometimes, nerve damage also plays a significant role in triggering leg spasms.
Some researchers believe that dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can also contribute to muscle spasms. People who exercise continuously in hot weather often experience spasms. However, no scientific proof has confirmed this connection because people who exercise in winters can also experience cramps.
In some cases, leg spasms are also caused due to the underlying condition relating to the nervous system, metabolism, hormones, or blood circulation. Some drugs can also increase the risk of muscle spasms.
Other conditions that can cause spasms to include:
- misuse of alcohol or drugs
- chronic kidney problem
- cirrhosis, hemodialysis, and cancer treatment
- vascular disease and restless legs syndrome
- pregnancy especially in later stages
Older adults are more likely to experience leg spasms.
Muscle weakness starts from the mid-40s and increases if the person is not physically active. This may trigger muscle cramps. Some researchers suggest that 50 to 60 percent of adults and 7 percent of children can experience the problem of muscle cramps, and it can increase with age.
When to see a doctor?
Leg spasms feel like a stitch in the side or can be agonizingly painful. You can observe a twitch under your skin, and it can feel hard to the touch. Spasms are involuntary when the muscle contracts. It takes some time and treatment for it to relax.
Spasms are common, especially in older adults and athletes. If severe, responds poorly to the treatment, happens frequently, and is not related to obvious causes, consult your doctor or the expert.
How can I diagnose my leg spasms?
Leg spasms are usually harmless and do not require any medical attention. However, if your cramps are severe, see a doctor or an expert. Avoid relieving it with stretching or persisting it for a long duration. It very well may be an indication of a fundamental ailment.
To diagnose the cause of leg spasms, your physician will perform a physical examination, or they may ask you several questions, including:
- How often do your leg cramps occur?
- Do you take any medicine?
- Which muscle is affected?
- Do you consume alcohol?
- Your exercising routine
- How much liquid do you drink daily?
Doctors may also advise you for a blood test to check the level of calcium and potassium in your blood and check your thyroid and kidney function. They can recommend electromyography. It is a test that measures muscle activity and prevents abnormalities in the muscle.
An MRI may also be recommended. It is an imaging tool that creates a picture of your spinal cord.
How can muscle relaxants treat my leg spasms?
Muscle relaxants are potent drugs used to treat muscle spasms or muscle spasticity. Spasms or cramps are a sudden and involuntary contraction of a muscle strain that results in pain. They are associated with neck pain, back pain, and fibromyalgia.
Prescription drugs such as muscle relaxants can help relieve the discomfort and pain from muscle spasticity or spasms. In addition, other over-the-counter medications are also used to treat aches and pains associated with muscle spasms.
Centrally acting skeletal muscle relaxants combine physical therapy and rest to relieve leg spasms. They work by causing sedative effects or preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain.
Doctors recommend using muscle relaxants for up to two to three weeks. The effect and safety on long-term usage are not yet confirmed. While these muscle relaxants can also treat muscle spasms, they have not worked better than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or acetaminophen.
The common side effects of SMRs include drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nervousness, lowered blood pressure, and reddish or orange urine.
It very well may be an indication of an essential ailment. But if you face regular cramps or spasms, consult your doctor immediately.
Currently, there are no specific drugs available to treat recurring leg spasms. However, if your spasms are symptoms of another condition, addressing that underlying issue could relieve you.