What are Causes of leg cramps?
If you haven’t already, you will probably experience leg cramps at some phase in your life. They can hit at the worst possible moments; whether you’re lying in bed at night or taking a run on the treadmill, that sharp stabbing pain can feel entirely debilitating. If leg cramps, also called Charley horses, persist, they can become even more irritated, perhaps knocking you off your typical exercise or sleep routine.
A leg cramp is a sharp, sudden contraction or tightening of the muscle in the calf, which usually lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. If a cramp does hit, you can ease it in the moment by stretching the muscle gently. To find a long-term solution to leg cramps, however, you might need to take a closer look at their many potential causes.
To keep leg cramps at bay, make sure you’re nourishing your body and getting enough rest. You’ll also want to rule out any underlying issues that could be contributing to leg crampings, such as peripheral artery illness or thyroid issues. See a doctor when cramps prevent you from exercising, or if they seem to happen spontaneously without a trigger.
Sitting or standing
Peripheral artery disease
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
Too-high blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes can lead to damage to the nerves in the legs, feet, arms, and hands called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. This nerve damage often leads to feelings of numbness or tingling, but it can also produce muscle twitching and full-blown leg cramps when the nerves in the legs aren’t functioning properly. Diabetes treatment can help prevent any further nerve damage, but a doctor might recommend pain medication or anticonvulsant medications to tamp down the leg cramps.
Thyroid conditions may also contribute to leg cramps, Dr. Sontag tells. People with hypothyroidism produce too little thyroid hormone, and over time that deficiency can damage the nerves that send signals from your brain and spine to your arms and legs. Some people with underactive thyroids will feel tingling or numbness in their muscles, while others might experience leg cramps.