Want to know how to get rid of painful leg cramps fast? Especially, how to get rid of leg cramps at night? The best way is to first learn how to avoid them.
Let’s get something obvious out of the way: leg cramps suck. They are painful, frustrating, and seem to happen out of nowhere.
Although leg cramps are common, they aren’t normal. Leg cramps are like headaches. Millions of people suffer from headaches. But headaches are an indication of an imbalance in the body. Leg cramps are no different.
There’s no reason you should ever get a leg cramp. If you eat a healthy diet, take the right supplements to prevent leg cramps (more on this in a bit), stay hydrated, exercise and stretch, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get a leg cramp.
Causes of leg cramps at night
Learning how to get rid of leg cramps at night can save you lots of agony. But first, you might want to know what the root causes of leg cramps are. So let’s dig in….
Poor nutrition habits are often a root cause of leg cramps at night. Do you eat lots of carbohydrates, especially refined carbs? If so, it could be one reason you’re getting leg cramps at night. Carbs like bagels, muffins, cookies, and anything with white flour (and even wheat flour) could inflame your joints.
According to WebMD, there are 86 conditions associated with joint pain, cramps, spasms (as well as fatigue). When your joints are inflamed, it could trigger cramps.
Eating lots of packaged foods may also contribute to leg cramps. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium.
Sodium chloride, otherwise known as table salt, is stripped of trace minerals. These trace minerals, which are found in unprocessed sea salt, help balance electrolytes in the cells.
When you eat too much table salt your electrolyte levels are imbalanced and/or insufficient. When you have too much salt in the diet, you can develop high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can cause cramps. Not having enough potassium can also contribute to leg pain at night. Potassium levels can decline with too much sodium intake.
If you get leg cramps at night, you might also be deficient in magnesium. It’s estimated 80% of adults don’t get enough magnesium.
You can take a magnesium supplement to correct the deficiency. Magnesium’s actions are dependent on calcium, and vice versa.
If you sweat a lot and only drink water, you could have an electrolyte imbalance or deficiency. Electrolytes assist in nerve impulse firing. Without electrolytes, your muscles wouldn’t be able to function.
Other causes of cramps include taking certain medications (especially diuretics) or B vitamin deficiency. Knowing the potential cause of your issue is step one of how to get rid of leg cramps.
Get the blood flowing
Lack of exercise also plays a big role in leg cramping at night. Too much vigorous exercise can actually trigger acute cramps, but for most people, it’s lack of exercise that’s the problem.
When you sit all day and get little movement, your blood flow becomes stagnant. Poor circulation can trigger leg cramps at night. Think of leg cramps at night as your body telling you to move more during the day.
Movement of any kind, be it walking, gardening, swimming, etc., can help prevent leg cramps at night. Again, if you are exercising vigorously several times a week and get leg cramps at night, it could be due to an electrolyte imbalance.
Try adding unprocessed pink or grey sea salt to your meals. You can also take liquid trace minerals and add it to purified water. Or buy some mineral water.
Stress can also cause leg cramps at night. And it doesn’t matter what kind of stress. Stress of any type can deplete electrolytes and cause anxiety.
Muscles that have trouble relaxing are just a mirror of your high stress levels. Try some deep breathing before bed to calm your body down.
Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system. This is your rest and relax functional apparatus in your body.
How to get rid of leg cramps at night
A of people tend to get cramps in their legs at bedtime. So, lets take a look at how to get rid of leg cramps that happen at night.
One of the most pleasurable ways to prevent (or get rid of) leg pain at night is by taking a soak in magnesium sulfate. Also known as “Epsom Salt,” magnesium, as mentioned above is a critical electrolyte that most people are lacking in their cells.
Taking a warm bath in Epsom Salt is easy and relaxing. Epsom salt baths get magnesium quickly into your muscles.
If you don’t have a bathtub handy or don’t feel like getting out of bed, you can also try icing your crampy muscles. Or, try a heating pad.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, applying heat is better for leg cramps rather than ice. Especially if the root cause is blood stagnation. But some people get relief by icing their cramps. Through trial and error, see if heat or ice works better for you.
Another way to relieve leg pain at night is by stretching. Most leg cramps are in the calf muscles, toes, or thigh muscles. Do a simple stretch of the affected area and try to gently hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Remember to breathe! If stretching makes the cramp more painful, ease off the stretch and try to take deep breaths.
How to get rid of leg cramps after exercise
If you experience muscle cramps after exercising, you most likely were exercising too hard. There’s really no reason you should cramp post-workout. The best way to prevent cramps is by stretching before and after exercising.
Before you exercise, though, it’s important not to perform static stretches. Muscles that aren’t warmed up don’t respond well to static stretching. Instead, warm up your muscles with dynamic stretches. For example, if you’re about to swim, do some shoulder rotations that mimic the motion of swimming.
If you’re about to go for a run, swing your legs, one at a time, like a pendulum while you hold onto something for support. You can also walk in place and flex your knees, gently bringing the heel towards your glutes.
Be careful not to flex your knees too much. Otherwise, you may get a cramp in your hamstring. Do some squats. Downward dogs from yoga class are also a great way to warm up muscles.
After you’re done exercising, you can do some static stretches. Some trainers recommend waiting a few hours before stretching. If you exercise at night and can’t wait several hours, stretch before bed for 10 minutes.
You can also use a foam roller or beaded massage rolling pin. With the foam roller sit on the floor with your legs stretched out. If the cramping is in the backside of your leg, simply place the foam roller horizontal and roll it under your affected leg.
Stretching should help prevent muscle cramps. Now, let’s take a look at how to get rid of legs cramps when they happen after you’ve exercised.
If you do experience cramps post-exercise, the same guidelines as above apply. Stretch the affected muscle area and make sure your electrolytes are replenished.
Usually, stretching the affected area for 30 seconds or so is all it takes for the cramp to subside. You may need to repeat the stretch one or two times for the cramp to completely go away.
Follow up the stretching by taking an Epsom Salt bath.
Leg pain relief exercises
If you want to know how to get rid of leg cramps at night, you’ll want to learn a few leg pain relief exercises. These exercises will help alleviate the pain quickly so you can get back to sleep.
You may want to have a towel handy next to your bed if you frequently experience leg cramps at night. Here’s one stretch you do with a towel that should get rid of your leg cramp fast: with your back on the bed, raise the leg that’s affected by the cramp about 6 inches. Take a towel and place it behind your Achilles heel of the leg that has the cramp. Grabbing both ends of the towel with your hands, gently breathe in and pull the towel towards you. This stretch is especially helpful for cramps in the hamstring.
If the cramp is directly in the calf muscle, try to place the towel over the balls of your feet and gently pull. You can also, if you’re able to get out of bed, try this stretch: place your hands on a wall in line with your shoulders. Place the foot that’s not affected by the calf cramp in front of the other foot. The front knee should be bent, directly over the ankle. The rear leg should be straight, with a slight bend in the knee. The rear calf should feel the stretch.
If you get cramps frequently, you should let your doctor know. If your doctor isn’t sure what to do about the cramps (other than recommend a pharmaceutical drug), an all-natural solution would be to stretch more often. Find a gentle yoga class in your neighborhood or do an online yoga video or DVD.
Prevention is key for those who want to know how to get rid of leg cramps. And, there are countless stretches you can do to prevent cramps. Stretching the calves and hamstrings with a towel or against the wall are highly effective for most people at preventing and treating leg cramps at night.