You know, the ones you get in your sleep? I got one at about 4:00AM this morning that probably lasted 45 seconds or so, but felt like an eternity of clawing at my sheets and yelling obscenities. Even now, I’m limping slightly, as I have an epic-level charlie horse in my right calf.
I probably go six months at a time without getting any of these calf cramps, but then I’ll go on a tear where I get three in a week. I’m worried that I’m embarking on just such a tear right now.
What causes these? What might I be doing to make them happen, and conversely, what might I do to make them less frequent?*
I put this in GQ because I’m sure there’s a physiological explanation, and I’m hoping one or more of you know it, but I’m also happy to hear personal experiences. In the absence of either of those things, pity is also cheerfully accepted at all our downtown locations.
I’m not fishing for medical advice, really. I’m just wondering whether there are any known factors or aggravating factors for this kind of cramp.
As said above, bananas will give you more potassium. Also, perhaps more importantly, dehydration is a big factor. Your cells need plenty of water to be able to transport potassium and calcium effectively.
Not sure about prevention but I find the quickest way to get rid of these cramps when they happen is to actually get out of bed and force yourself to walk around the room a couple of times. Put some weight on the leg and it works itself out much faster than thrashing about in bed… in my experience anyways.
I find that when these occur, there is usually a second or so grace period when you wake up with the “Oh crap! I’m getting a leg cramp” feeling. Train yourself so that the instant you awake with that feeling, immediately flex your toes up toward your calf, and hold it. If you flex quickly enough, and hold it long enough (as long as you feel the tension that feels like the muscle wants to jump out of your leg and tie itself into a knot), frequently you can prevent the cramp from taking over.
My doctor prescribed Tonic Water (Schwepps). Just drink one of those bottles of water and you will be rid of the cramps. Repeat 2 - 3 times a week and you will have no more cramps. It is the Quinine in the tonic water that does the trick.
Your muscles require calcium to contract, and then potassium to relax. If you have enough calcium to cause a contraction but you dont have potassium available to allow the muscle to relax, it will lock up.
Get pleanty of potassium–take a multivitamin. And drink pleanty of water.
There is SFA protein in a banana. There’s probably more protein in an Oreo. The idea behind the banana is that it contains a reasonable amount of potassium.
While your heart muscle relies on calcium your leg muscles don’t to any great degree. Skeletal muscle is primarily based on a sodium/potassium gradient.
Muscles don’t need different ions to contract and relax. If they have insufficient concentrations of any required ion they will contract. Doesn’t matter what it is. The reason for the recommendation of increased pottassium intake is that it’s almost impossible for an American to suffer form a sodium deficiency. There’s just too much salt in the westerndiet to make that relaistic.
I used to have horrendous leg cramps. Taking a potassium supplement (in addition to a multivitamin), plus plenty of water, as Bear_Nenno says) does most of the job. The only other thing that I do - that keeps me from getting the cramps at all, when added to the potassium and enough water, is regular exercise.
In addition to the adequate potassium and water, you need the exercise. Even if you don’t do any other exercise, if you exercise your legs (leg lifts and heel slides, if you do ~30 reps, at least 4X per week, will do it), you shouldn’t get the cramps anymore. Our bodies are designed to be active. Our ancestors lived physically active lives; they got plenty of exercise. If we don’t get exercise, we are upsetting the balance of nature.
I’m disabled; there are lots of exercises I simply can’t do, but I do these exercises, and a couple more, 5 to 7 days a week. They keep me from having those cramp attacks (which always seem to happen when you’re sleeping most deeply).
I used to get these. The muscle contractions in my legs and feet were awful - as bad as second-stage labor pains. To fend them off, my doctor suggested taking potassium, calcium and zinc supplements and drinking lots of water. I followed her advice and now leg and foot cramps occur less often and are less painful.
RLS is definitely different. I have it something awful. I used to get it only during pregnancy, but now…(sigh). Several nights a week.
I treat it with sublingual magnesium pellets. Also bananas and calcium, when I remember. But the sublingual thing will make it go away immediately. So will orgasm. Why? I dunno, but I enjoy both the process and the effect. My father says quinine helps him with RLS; it doesn’t do a dang thing for me.
Cramps on the other hand…yeah. In the short term, you could keep eat a couple bananas; in the longer term, what everybody else said.
If the other stuff doesn’t work (B vitamins, zinc, walking around in bare feet, soaking feet in hot bath, etc.), what works for me in the middle of the night is just to get up and take 2 Advil. In 5 or 10 minutes I’m fine.