Sports Injuries

Leg Spasms and Cramping

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Leg spasms and cramps are common conditions where the muscles in the leg suddenly become tight and painful. They present with no warning and can cause excruciating and debilitating pain. They usually occur in the calf muscles but can affect any area of the leg, including the feet and thighs. After the cramping has passed, pain and tenderness can remain in the leg for several hours. Although many leg spasm episodes go away by themselves, they can disrupt normal activities, exercise regimens, and sleep if they continue and are left untreated.

 

Leg Spasms and Symptoms

A leg spasm is a sudden, sharp contraction or tightening of a muscle in the leg. This can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Muscle cramps anywhere in the body cause sudden contraction of the muscle. This is an involuntary function and can include the following symptoms:

  • Soreness and discomfort can be mild to extreme.
  • Muscle tightening.
  • Hardening of the muscle.
  • Twitching of the muscle.
  • Pain.

Leg spasms are typically brief and go away on their own, but individuals are recommended to seek treatment if they are frequently experienced or last for extended periods.

Causes

Dehydration

  • Dehydration is a common cause of leg spasms and pain.
  • Lack of fluids can cause the nerve endings to become sensitized, triggering muscle contractions.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Mineral Deficiency

  • When the body sweats, it loses water and electrolytes.
  • When the body is low on electrolytes
  • Imbalances in:
  • Sodium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • It can affect nerve transduction and lead to muscle spasms.

Hypothyroidism

  • If the body does not produce sufficient thyroid hormone, this is known as hypothyroidism.
  • Over time, this deficiency can damage the nerves that send signals from the brain and spine to the legs.
  • Tingling, numbness, and frequent cramping can result.

Spinal Misalignment

  • Spinal misalignment can compress nerve roots that run down the leg.
  • This can cause radiating leg pain and spasms, specifically in the back of the thigh.

Muscle and Connective Tissue Injuries

  • Injuries like tears, strains, and sprains can lead to leg spasms and frequent cramping.

Pregnancy

  • In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, calcium and magnesium deficiency are common and can lead to leg spasms and cramps.

Treatment

The proper course of treatment for leg spasms depends on the severity and underlying cause/s. A chiropractor can identify the cause and develop a personalized treatment plan to relieve and eliminate leg cramps.

Chiropractic

  • Misalignments can compress the nerve roots radiating from the spine to the legs.
  • This can lead to radiating leg pain and/or leg spasms.
  • Realignment through chiropractic can relieve the pressure on compressed nerve roots, alleviating leg discomfort and pain.
  • A chiropractor will also recommend exercises and stretches to strengthen the legs and core muscles.

Physical Therapeutic Massage

  • A physical therapist will use various massage techniques to relax the leg muscles to prevent and reduce the severity of spasms.
  • Massage therapy will relieve any inflammation that accompanies leg spasms, decreasing pain and swelling in the area.

Health Coaching

  • Leg spasms can be caused by nutritional deficiency.
  • As a part of the treatment plan, a health coach will evaluate the individual’s diet and suggest changes that will help address any nutritional deficiencies contributing to leg spasms and cramps.

Body Composition


Track Inflammation and Fluid Imbalances From Injury or Surgery

Inflammation can occur with little to no visible symptoms following surgery or injury. Precision measurement of body water can detect water retention and inflammation to aid rehabilitation treatment. InBody effectively distinguishes water in the following compartments that comprise total body water.

  • Intracellular-ICW-within the tissues.
  • Extracellular-ECW-within the blood and interstitial fluids.
  • The Edema Index can be used to detect fluid imbalances resulting from inflammation from injury or recovery after surgery.

Assessing fluid balance in the body and specific segments can help identify inflammation and guide treatment to reduce the risk of re-injury or post-surgery complications. These measurements are provided for the whole body and can determine where fluid imbalances may be occurring for more precise analysis.

References

Araújo, Carla Adriane Leal de et al. “Oral magnesium supplementation for leg cramps in pregnancy. An observational controlled trial.” PloS one vol. 15,1 e0227497. 10 Jan. 2020, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0227497

Garrison, Scott R et al. “Magnesium for skeletal muscle cramps.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 2012,9 CD009402. 12 Sep. 2012, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009402.pub2

Kang, Seok Hui et al. “Clinical Significance of the Edema Index in Incident Peritoneal Dialysis Patients.” PloS one vol. 11,1 e0147070. 19 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147070

Luo, Li et al. “Interventions for leg cramps in pregnancy.” The Cochrane database of systematic reviews vol. 12,12 CD010655. 4 Dec. 2020, doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010655.pub3

Mekhail, Nagy et al. “Long-term safety and efficacy of closed-loop spinal cord stimulation to treat chronic back and leg pain (Evoke): a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial.” The Lancet. Neurology vol. 19,2 (2020): 123-134. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(19)30414-4

Young, Gavin. “Leg cramps.” BMJ clinical evidence vol. 2015 1113. 13 May. 2015

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The information herein on "Leg Spasms and Cramping" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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