Forceful or continuous contractions of the leg muscles can lead to cramps. Here is a brief overview about the causes of cramps in lower legs.
It is natural for the muscles to contract and relax, as we move; but involuntary and sudden contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles can cause discomfort and intense pain. This type of uncontrolled contractions of muscles are called cramps, which are most commonly experienced in the lower legs, especially in the calf.
Cramps may or may not be accompanied with pain. Even if there is no pain, the affected person will experience some sort of discomfort or a stiff feeling, which may temporarily affect the movements of the leg. These cramps may last for a few seconds or minutes. Some people experience cramps during the night. The causes of lower leg cramps may vary from person to person, but older people are usually more prone to such cramps.
What Causes Leg Cramps?
Leg cramps can be triggered by some medication or medical conditions. Such cramps may also develop during pregnancy. Vigorous activities, like exercises may also result in leg cramps, which can also be caused by muscle fatigue. Even a long stay in the bed may cause such cramps.
- One of the most common causes for lower leg cramps is strenuous activity, which involves vigorous muscle contractions and expansions, leading to muscle fatigue. This may result in lower leg cramps, which may develop during the activities or after some time.
- Tissue hypoxia is another cause for such cramps. This condition is caused by lack of oxygen supply to the muscles.
- Awkward posture or position may also lead to cramps. Sitting or lying in an awkward position for a long time can cause sudden contraction of leg muscles.
- Varicose veins is a medical condition, which affects the veins of the legs. The veins become blue, swollen and twisted, and cause cramping, especially during nighttime.
- Low levels of minerals, like calcium, potassium or magnesium may also cause lower leg cramps. This could be the reason why pregnant women and elderly people are more susceptible to leg cramps.
- In some people, insulin is produced in excess amounts, which in turn causes cramps in lower legs.
- Excess fluid loss or dehydration due to perspiration, vomiting or diarrhea, can cause cramps in lower legs. This type of leg cramps are more likely to occur during warm weather. Such cramps could be a symptom of heat stroke.
- Medication, like those used to lower cholesterol and blood glucose levels, can also cause leg cramps.
- Lower leg cramps may occur, due to the inability of the muscles to relax. This condition is caused by a reduction in the level adenosine triphosphate or ATP (an energy chemical found in the cells). The condition can be either inherited or acquired.
Usually, cramps in lower legs last for a few seconds; and in some cases, it may take up to 15 minutes for the muscles to relax. If these muscle cramps occur more frequently, figure out the reason, like sudden change in exercises, regular strenuous activity, insufficient intake of water, consumption of certain drugs, etc. You may prevent such cramps, if you identify the cause. Slow stretching and gentle massaging may cure the condition. It is advisable to consult your health care provider, in case of frequent leg cramps.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.