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How do I Choose the Best Treatment for Leg Cramps?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated May 17, 2024
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Leg cramps occur at some point in just about all people, and they can usually be treated fairly simply and quickly. The best treatment for leg cramps will address the cause of the cramp, which may be due to a lack of conditioning of the muscles, dehydration, overuse of muscles, or prolonged inactivity. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity can be one treatment for leg cramps and can prevent leg cramps in the future. Electrolyte replacement through sports drinks or dietary supplements can also be an effective treatment for leg cramps and a prevention of cramps in the future.

When muscles involuntarily contract, the muscle is in a spasm. When that spasm does not release, a cramp is occurring. Treatment for leg cramps include simply massaging the affected area, stretching it out to a point that does not worsen the pain, and applying heat if possible. These are immediate forms of relief from the cramp, but the pain or discomfort may last for several hours afterward. Over the counter painkillers may be taken to alleviate some of the pain, though this is usually not necessary. Applying heat can help loosen the muscle enough to release the cramp, as can getting up and walking around to stretch out the muscle.

Hydration is an important step of treatment for leg cramps, and it can help prevent cramps in the future. Drinking water before, during, and after exercise, as well as regularly throughout the day, can help ensure proper delivery of oxygen to the muscles. Exercise promotes rapid loss of fluids from the body, especially during hot weather, so it is extremely important to take in the proper amount of water during physical activity to prevent cramps and other health issues. In hot weather, muscle cramps can actually be an early warning sign of heat stroke, so drinking fluids is vital when the first signs of a cramp arise.

Replacement of electrolytes and taking vitamin supplements can also help treat leg cramps. Electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity; they are vital in many functions of the body, and leg cramps can be an indication of depleted electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all examples of electrolytes the body needs to function properly, and they are all substances that are commonly lost during exercise. Eating a properly balanced diet that contains these substances can help treat and prevent leg cramps, and taking vitamin supplements can also help prevent and treat cramps.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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