What should someone do when they experience a leg muscle cramp or spasm?

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What should someone do when they experience a leg muscle cramp or spasm?

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If you have a muscle cramp or spasm, there are a few things you can do to help it stop

If you have a muscle cramp, then I recommend:

Apply heat to the tight muscles
Gently stretch the cramped muscle
Massage the cramped muscle to help it relax

Fortunately, these kinds of cramps usually go away in a few minutes and don’t need medical attention.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what causes leg spasms.

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Prevention is the key to most skeletal muscle spasm episodes. Since they are often associated with dehydration and electrolyte disturbances, it is important to keep the body well hydrated. If the fluid loss is due to an illness with fever or vomiting and diarrhea, controlling the symptoms will help limit fluid loss and prevent spasms. Similarly, for those who work or exercise in a hot environment, drinking enough fluids to keep hydrated is very important. It is often helpful to hydrate prior to activities in warm environments.

Muscles should also be prepared for the activity that they are expected to do. Just as athletes stretch and warm up before the game, nonathletes should warm up before heavy labor, including jobs like raking, mowing, and shoveling snow.

Should a large skeletal muscle go into spasm (often referred to as a charley horse), the initial treatment is to gently stretch the muscle back to length to break the spasm cycle and resolve the acute situation. For example, first aid for a hamstring spasm (where the muscles in the back of the thigh are affected) includes straightening the knee joint and flexing the hip, which stretches the muscles and helps resolve their spasm.

Further treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the muscle spasms. For muscles that have been damaged or strained, medications may be required for short-term pain relief, including anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen [Advil, Motrin]), narcotics, and muscle relaxants.

The treatment of smooth muscle spasm, such as bowel spasm, depends upon diagnosing and treating the underlying cause.

Nocturnal leg cramps are difficult to control and treat. Historically, quinine has been prescribed to help with the muscle spasms, but this drug can have side effects including abnormal bleeding problems. Other medications, including B-complex vitamins, gabapentin and diltiazem, may be helpful.

Many possible treatments are available for the dystonias. The decision as to which medication to use depends upon the individual situation. It may take trial and error to find the right medication in the right dose to control symptoms.

Anti-Parkinsonism drugs, like trihexyphenidyl HCl (Artane) and benztropine mesylate (Cogentin), decrease acetylcholine levels.
Muscle relaxants like diazepam (Valium) and baclofen (Lioresal) affect GABA receptors.
Levodopa (Sinemet) and reserpine (Harmonyl) affect dopamine levels.
Carbamazepine (Tegretol), a seizure-control drug, may be useful in some patients.
Botulinum toxin type A (Botox) may be injected into a specific muscle to paralyze it and relieve the muscle spasm of dystonia, such as for blepharospasms.

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Most cases of simple cramps require no treatment other than patience and stretching. When heat cramps occur, the child should stop the activity, move to a cool or shady place, remove excess clothing, drink cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes, such as Gatorade, and rest. If the child appears nauseous or is feeling dizzy, he should lie down, with feet slightly elevated. Directing a fan on the child will help cool the child. Gently and gradually stretching and massaging the affected muscle may ease the pain and hasten recovery.

Briefly applying cold packs to cramped muscles, for about ten minutes, may help ease pain.

 

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