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What Causes Leg Cramps and How to Get Rid of Them

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Sharlee likes to research common health ailments that can be remedied with a little self-care and healthy lifestyle choices.

Make sure to stretch when exercising.

Make sure to stretch when exercising.

What Causes Leg Cramps?

Are you plagued with intermittent leg cramps? Are you perplexed by what's causing them? It's important to get to the bottom of what is causing your leg pain; only then can you begin to treat and relieve the pain.

First, let's talk about a few factors that have been proven to cause leg pain and cramping. One of the more serious (but thankfully less common) health conditions that can cause leg cramps is deep vein thrombosis or DVT. DVT is a blood clot in the leg. This condition has specific symptoms such as pain, swelling, and redness in a specific area of the leg. One might also feel a lump or clot. However, as a rule, a clot will not be palpable. Symptoms of DVT will be felt in one leg only. If your symptoms in any respect mimic the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Another health problem that can cause leg cramps is an electrolyte imbalance. Think of the body as a machine, and think of electrolytes as different types of fuel that help keep the body working properly. When any given electrolyte is experiencing an imbalance, the human body will be warned with specific signs and symptoms. So, how can an electrolyte imbalance affect your leg muscles and ultimately cause cramps?

There are three major electrolytes that help keep muscles healthy and hydrated: calcium, potassium, and sodium. I am sure you may be at this point wondering, how can these electrolytes become depleted? Actually, electrolytes are easily depleted, and they are sneaky in doing so.

How Do Electrolytes Become Depleted?

Perhaps you don't take the time to eat breakfast, and then you head off for a day of shopping. Then, to add to the problem, you don't take time to stop and drink water. After you have been shopping for several hours you may experience dizziness. Maybe even feel some discomfort or muscle twitching along with pain in your lower legs. You might even feel heart palpitations. You may attribute these uneasy feelings to overexertion, perhaps too much walking. Well, this assumption might be partially correct. However, the combination of overexertion and lack of food and fluids has increased your body's need for electrolytes and has left you dehydrated.

Dehydration can have symptoms such as heart palpitations and leg cramps. The symptoms that are being experienced are symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance, which is a result of dehydration. Dehydration is just one of the culprits that can cause leg cramps.

Questions to Ask Yourself If You're Experiencing Leg Cramps

How often do you have leg cramps?

  1. I have leg cramps daily.
  2. Once in a while.
  3. My leg cramps never go away; I have constant pain.

If you answered one and three, you need to see a doctor.

Do you consider yourself a person who keeps your body well hydrated?

  1. Yes, I make sure to take in fluids throughout the day.
  2. As a rule, I try to take in the proper amount of fluids daily, although I sometimes have busy days and I forget to drink ample fluids.
  3. I am not on top of drinking water regularly. I know I don't take in the proper amount of fluids on a given day.

If you answered two or three, you need to make sure to drink more fluids during your busy day. It's recommended that you drink eight, 8oz glasses of water a day.

Do you skip meals?

  1. No, I do not.
  2. Yes, from time to time.
  3. I frequently skip meals.
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If you answered three to this question, make an effort to eat at least two meals a day, and add a few healthy snacks in between meals.

Are you a person who is always on the go?

  1. Yes, I am always on the go.
  2. No, not really.
  3. I go in spurts. I have periods where my life is hectic and then periods where I'm sedentary.

Exercise is great, but if you answered one to this question, you still may be a candidate for leg cramps. If you are not eating properly, and taking in a proper amount of fluids, you can develop dehydration and all the nasty symptoms that accompany it.

This question is for those who are plagued with recurring leg cramps.

When you are experiencing leg cramps, are they accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or lethargy?

  1. Yes, I do experience some of these symptoms.
  2. No, I actually just have the leg cramps.
  3. This is a hard question, at times when I am having leg cramps I do have some of the above-mentioned symptoms. However, sometimes I just have leg cramps alone.

This question brings to light more severe cases of dehydration. If you answered one and three, you need to alter your daily eating and drinking habits. You are putting undue stress on your body by creating an electrolyte imbalance, which may lead to a more severe case of dehydration.

Helpful Tips to Stave off Leg Cramps

Hopefully, you will take steps to eat better, and make sure to drink enough fluids, especially on a busy or stressful day.

I would encourage my readers to include foods and fluids that contain the three important electrolytes that can help prevent problems with leg cramping. These three electrolytes, calcium, potassium, and sodium, are associated and proven to aid in building and maintaining both muscle and bone health. Most importantly, these electrolytes play a major role in keeping the hydration balance in the human body.

Let's discover the benefits of calcium, potassium, and sodium.

The Big Three: Calcium, Potassium, and Sodium

These are the three major electrolytes that can help maintain hydration balance in the human body.

To put it simply, electrolytes are pretty good at keeping themselves in balance. If a human is eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated, all should be well in regards to keeping their muscles in good health and pain-free. The trouble starts when the electrolytes are depleted.

So, where does the human body get electrolytes from? Electrolytes are supplied by what we eat, and drink. It's as simple as that. Calcium, potassium, and sodium are present what we consume. By making sure we eat well and drink ample amounts of water, we can maintain a good normal electrolyte balance, and hopefully, stave off dehydration and those painful leg cramps.

Bananas and other fruits are a great way to add more potassium to your diet.

Bananas and other fruits are a great way to add more potassium to your diet.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of potassium is 3500 milligrams.

If you are having leg cramps, and think your leg cramps might be due to dehydration, try to consume some foods that will beef up the big three electrolytes. You may be surprised how quickly those leg cramps disappear.