Yikes… another painful leg cramp!
Annoying as all get out. Especially when you’re sleeping and you wake up feeling as if someone stabbed you in the leg with a knife (these are known as nocturnal leg cramps).
Leg cramps are also common in the middle of exercising or stretching. Basically, a leg cramp is defined by a painful contraction, spasm or tightness of the muscle sometimes referred to as a charley horse.
So what can you do to get rid of leg cramps? It takes a little trial and error.
To stop leg cramps immediately, I would attack them in the order below.
How To Get Rid Of Leg Cramps Fast
Step 1: The first thing to do to get rid of leg cramps is to start massaging the area where you most feel the cramping, either by rubbing or by digging your knuckles in and gently twisting away the pain.
Step 2: Using the thumb and the pointer finger, start repeatedly pinching the area while counting to three. Gradually, add all your fingers to squeeze and pinch the area.
Step 3: Point and flex the foot of the cramping leg while digging into the pain with the fingers of both hands.
Step 4: If you’re experiencing a nighttime leg cramp in bed, stop the leg cramp fast by swinging your legs over the side of the bed and press both feet into the floor, forcing blood into the area of the spasm.
Step 5: You may just have to stand up and put weight on it, but be careful you don’t fall. Hold onto a chair or stay near the bed. Slightly bend and straighten your knee.
Step 6: If possible, start a slow walk, again near the bed if you need support.
Step 7: Many of my experienced fellow exercisers have told me how they used to be able to buy quinine pills to stop leg cramps and keep them away. However, the FDA has advised against using quinine pills for cramps so instead, buy some pint size bottles of tonic water (avoid the urge to mix with gin or vodka) and take a couple of swigs.
Step 8: Eat half a banana, which delivers potassium and calcium to the body. As we’ll discuss below, nutrient deficiency is one of the supposed reasons why we get cramps.
Step 9: If still the leg cramp does not subside, try a heating pad on the area or a warm moist towel.
Step 10: If cramps continue to be ongoing, definitely speak with your doctor to make sure there are no underlying medical conditions causing your leg cramps that need to be addressed.
Why Do We Get Leg Cramps And How Can We Avoid Them?
I decided to address this question last as research seems to have no definitive answers for why we get leg cramps. Any one of the following could be the reason for leg cramps.
Both too much exercise and too little movement, failing to stretch out the muscles after exercise, dehydration, depletion of electrolytes, lack of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, certain medications, and unfortunately underlying medical conditions may be to blame.
Consider trying the following suggestions to stop your leg cramps or reduce their frequency:
- Get moving, but don’t overdo it. In other words, three exercise classes in one day might be depleting your body faster than it can replenish depleted electrolytes and minerals and repair overworked muscles. Marathon runners can attest to this overworked muscle theory.
- STRETCH after your workout to lengthen the muscles back to their original length. Muscles can shorten and knot up after working hard. I suggest a stretch or two before bedtime as well to thwart off those cramps (try my five-minute bedtime stretch video, which will also help you fall asleep).
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially have water available during your exercise regiment.
- You may want to have your potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels checked to make sure low counts aren’t the culprit. Try adding foods like bananas, nuts, sweet potatoes, melon and leafy greens to your diet to keep things balanced.
- If all else fails, do have that discussion with your physician to rule out any foreboding medical causes of leg cramps.
Leg cramps are not uncommon as we age. I’ve had them from mild to severe. It’s only when they’ve kept me awake at night that they were a real problem.
Here’s to FEELING GOOD!
Try my bedtime stretch routine here: