When should I be worried about leg cramps?

When should I be worried about leg cramps?

This is a popular add on topic that our clients come in with. They can be related to low back pain and I will explain why that is further on in this blog.

I want to tell you about my Dad, he was diagnosed with MS 15 years ago. He is amazing and has kept his body moving and fit to try and stop the progression of his MS. He has a type of MS called secondary progressive MS, rather than relapsing and remitting.

The latter is where the patient will have symptoms severely for a period and then they may not relapse for years.

Secondary progressive is where the lesion on the nerve gradually gets worse over time, so you won’t see huge changes from week to week. But gradually the disease can deteriorate the nerve and the function of the muscles where the nerve goes.

However, you can keep the muscle strong and active with neurorehabilitation and exercise. Stimulating the muscle this way can keep it active, which is what my Dad has done relentlessly for the past 15 years.

I will segue into the reason this is related to leg cramps, a few years back he stated developing restless legs.

He would be relaxing in the evening and suddenly, his legs would start twitching.

Now I’m not sure I understand the link between MS and leg twitching, but the point is that leg cramps and restless legs can be caused by something completely different and it is important to find the source of the issue.

What causes leg cramps?

  1. Electrolyte imbalance-minerals such as sodium and potassium are vital in the body and play a role in a lot of functions. If they are out of balance they can upset the muscle: fluid relationship and this can draw water in or out of the muscle leading to cramps.
  2. Spinal compression-of you have compressed nerves in the base of your spine like sciatica this can cause cramping in the legs. We do see this most regularly due to the fact that we are dealing with sciatica and low back pain a lot. We also need to be careful not to be presumptive and assume they are coming from the spine.
  3. Circulation issues- arterial problems like peripheral artery disease or other heart issues can cause leg cramping. It is important to have this checked before we commence any Chiropractic care.
  4. Overuse of muscles- if you have been exercising, standing for long periods or using your legs more than normal, this can cause cramps. This would be nothing to be concerned about, only if it carried on every time after you exercise, I would get it checked.
  5. Pregnancy- changes in hormones will affect the way the body functions with fluid balance, plus there is extra weight from the baby putting pressure on the legs.

When should I be worried about leg cramps?

If you are experiencing leg cramps regularly then this would be the first sign that there could be a problem.

  1. Changes in skin colour- if the legs are turning pale, blue or red in areas this would be a cause for concern and I would recommend seeking professional help.
  2. Regular- if the cramps are becoming more regular and not associated with an increase in activity then get them checked.
  3. Numbness or weakness- if there is numbness or weakness in the legs this can also cause problems
  4. Extreme pain- if there is associated pain, like shooting or stabbing then this could be related to a nerve issue or something more sinister. But I would advise seeking help.

If you are experiencing leg cramps for the first time, some of the advice we give our clients is to ensure you are eating a balanced diet with a mix of minerals to ensure your electrolytes are topped up.

It is also important to drink at least 1.5 litres of water pe day to ensure you are hydrated.

If the symptoms persist then I would speak to a GP or medical professional. As Chiropractors we cannot treat or diagnose leg cramps, we can recognise and make appropriate referrals to other professionals.

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If you do know someone who wants more advice, please send them our details. You can send them this assessment as well to diagnose their back pain. It is a great tool to understand where your back pain is coming from, it is free and takes 60 seconds. Click here for assessment

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