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Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are the involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles in the leg. These cramps are usually painful and can occur at any age. They may affect the calf muscle, the hamstring or the quadriceps. These painful muscle contractions can last anywhere from one minute to several minutes in duration.

Symptoms

Symptoms may vary from one person to another. One may feel some tenderness or sore spots on the leg while others may experience intense pain or not be able to move the cramped leg.

Causes

While the cause may be difficult to determine, cramping may result from the following factors: rigorous exercise; muscle fatigue from overexertion; dehydration; hormonal, fluid or electrolyte imbalance; excess weight; side effects from certain medicines; diminished blood supply; muscle or nerve disease; or nerve abnormalities. Leg cramps that occur during sleep are known as recumbency cramps. The most common cause of muscle cramps is a lack of magnesium or calcium in the proper amount in the blood stream.

Cautions

In rare cases, cramping legs may be a symptom of a form of atherosclerosis known as intermittent claudication. This condition causes an inadequate blood supply to the legs. Ask your doctor about your cramping if they are frequent enough that they interfere with your sleep or if your legs frequently cramp up during or after exercising.

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