There are several commonly recommended ways to stop severe leg cramps. Common immediate remedies for when leg cramps occur include walking or quickly moving the leg back and forth and then elevating the leg. Light stretching and lightly massaging the leg in the cramped area is also a common quick fix for leg cramping.
A deep leg stretch can also ease severe leg cramps. The most effective way to do this is to sit on the ground with the cramped leg extended out flat in front of you. Straighten the leg and flex your foot toward your knee. Grab your toes and pull them toward your knee, and hold the position for around 30 seconds. You should feel your leg muscles stretching.
After 30 seconds, release your toes and relax your foot until you no longer feel a stretch. Repeat this process of stretching and resting your leg until the cramping sensation is gone. For more persistent cramps, take a warm shower or bath and then massage the leg with ice until the cramping has ceased.
While stretching and moving the legs once cramping occurs are common fixes for severe leg cramps, finding a way to avoid the cramps in the first place is usually far more beneficial. In many cases, the actual causes of leg cramps can rarely be linked to any specific trigger. One of the most common causes of muscle cramps is dehydration, so staying hydrated is one of the most common remedies for severe leg cramps. This can be done by drinking from six to eight glasses of water daily, as well as avoiding alcoholic drinks and those high in sugar.
Water levels are not the only dietary modification that can be made to remedy severe leg cramps. Low potassium levels can also contribute to leg cramping. Modifying your diet to include potassium supplements or high-potassium foods such as bananas can help prevent cramps, as well.
Food-related issues aside, cramping of the legs can sometimes be caused by other issues, such as prolonged sitting or sitting in positions that limit blood flow, standing for extended periods of time on hard surfaces, or general physical disorders such as flat feet. Leg cramps can also be caused by more severe health disorders such as hypoglycemia, diabetes, anemia, and thyroid and endocrine disorders. Some medications may also cause severe leg cramps.
Daily stretching of the legs or light exercise such as riding a stationary bicycle or marching in place for several minutes before going to sleep can prevent cramps from developing during the night, which is the most common time for severe leg cramps to occur. This is especially important for those who don’t get much exercise during the day. For those who do exercise, aquatic exercises are extremely beneficial in conditioning leg muscles to avoid cramping. Foot gear modifications, such as wearing more cushioned and supportive footwear or adding orthopedic shoe inserts, may also decrease cramping.