What Causes Muscle Spasms In Legs & How To Get Rid Of Them

Muscle spasms are also known as muscle cramps. They are painful muscle contractions and tightness in your muscles. They’re common and involuntary and mostly unpredictable.

Muscle spasms occur when your muscle involuntarily and forcibly contracts uncontrollably and can not relax. They can affect any muscles in your body, affecting part or all of a muscle. They may also affect several muscles in a group.

The most common sites for muscle spasms are your arms, hands, thighs, calves, feet, and abdomen. Muscle spasms or cramps in your legs are usually harmless, the muscles suddenly become tight and painful.

You may experience discomfort and tenderness in your leg for several hours after the cramping has faded. Three out of every four occurrences will most likely occur at night while you’re sleeping.

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Who gets muscle spasms?

Anyone can get muscle spasms and they can affect you, whether you’re young or elderly, inactive or active. It can occur when you’re sitting, walking, exercising, or sleeping.

You may be prone to muscle spasms and therefore experience them frequently when you engage in physical activity.

During a muscle spasm, your muscles will suddenly contract, causing pain in your leg. You cannot control the affected muscle during the spasmodic episode.

The cramp can last from a few seconds to 10 minutes. When the spasm eventually passes, you will be able to control the affected muscle again.

What causes muscle spasms in your legs?

The main causes of your muscle spasm are muscle pain, fatigue, and overuse. Experts believe muscle spasms may also be associated with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Sitting improperly
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Standing or working on concrete floors
  • Involuntary nerve discharges
  • Not enough stretching
  • Exercising in the heat
  • Depletion of electrolytes in your body ( eg potassium, magnesium, and calcium)
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Dehydration
  • Restriction in blood supply
  • Excessive high-intensity exercise
  • Nerve damage
  • Stress or anxiety.
  • Pregnancy

How to treat muscle spasms

You can usually treat muscle spasms and cramps at home with self-care measures. 

  • Make sure you stay well-hydrated.
  • Your condition can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles. Exercising your legs during the day will often help reduce how often you get cramping episodes.
  • If muscle spasms in your legs occurred during pregnancy, it should resolve after your baby is born.

What are the best home remedies for muscle spasms?

There are several home remedies that will help relieve muscle cramps and pain associated with muscle tightness. Try them out and figure out what works best for you.

Hydration

When you have muscle spasms, try drinking some water. Also, to prevent them, you should stay hydrated especially in hot weather and after exercising.

Walking around

Standing up and walking around is the simplest treatment option for your sore muscles. Doing a little exercise before going to sleep may help you to ward off leg cramps at night.

Examples of light exercises include:

  • Walking up and down a set of stairs.
  • Jogging in place.
  • Using a row machine for a few minutes.
  • Riding a stationary bike for a few minutes.
  • Bouncing on a trampoline.

You should engage in only light exercise because moderate or intense exercise right before bedtime can adversely affect your sleep.

Apply heat or cold

One of the most common and effective remedies is to apply heat or cold therapy to your sore muscles.

  • Apply a warm towel or heating pad to the areas where your muscles are tense or tight.

Recommended foot warmers and heating pads for knees:

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  • Take a nice warm bath.
  • Immerse yourself in a hot tub or spa if you have access to one.
  • If you’re taking a shower, direct the stream of the hot shower onto your cramped muscle.
  • For a persistent spasm, applying an ice pack may also relieve the tightness and pain. Apply the ice pack on the muscle for 15-20 minutes at a time, a few times a day.

Do not apply the ice directly to your skin. You should wrap the ice in a thin towel or cloth.

Recommended ice packs:

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Stretch and massage your leg muscles

Stretching is good for you. Stretch your cramped leg muscle and gently rub and massage it to help it relax.

If it’s your calf that’s cramped, put your weight on your cramped leg and bend your knee slightly to relieve it.  

You may add extras like resistance bands which may give you faster relief from muscle spasms.

  • Sit on the floor or in a chair with your affected leg outstretched if you can’t stand.
  • Pull the top of your affected side foot toward your head while keeping your leg straight. This will also help with hamstring cramps at the rear of your thigh.
  • To relieve a front thigh (quadriceps) cramp, pull your foot on the affected side up toward your buttock, using a chair to steady yourself.

To stretch your thigh muscles

  • Stand and hold onto a chair for balance.
  • Bend your leg at the knee and reach your leg backward from the hip.
  • Hold your ankle and pull your foot up behind you towards your buttock.

To stretch the muscles of your calf

  • Stand with the front half of your feet on a step and your heels hanging off the edge.
  • Lower your heels slowly so that they are below the step’s level.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds before returning your heels back to the starting position.
  • Rep the process a few times more.

What vitamins help with muscle spasms?

If you regularly have muscle soreness or spasms, this may be an indication that you may have vitamin D deficiency.

You may check your Vitamin D level at home using a micronutrient test. This quick and easy test will help you to identify if you have a deficiency in the following:

  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin E
  • Copper
  • Vitamin B12
  • Selenium
  • Zinc.

Vitamin D is available in liquids, pills, and capsule forms and it’s also found in foods such as:

  • Eggs
  • Seafood
  • Fortified milk.

Another strategy to take in vitamin D is to expose yourself to the sun on a regular basis.

Topical creams

Topical anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving creams may help you to relieve pain associated with muscle cramps. These products contain lidocaine, camphor, or menthol.

Good examples are Tiger Balm and Biofreeze.

Over-the-counter pain killers

You may take over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen to relieve the pain caused by tight, tense muscles.

Consult your doctor before you take OTC pain killers because certain conditions you have may prevent you from safely taking these medications.

Massage gun therapy

My several months of having painful muscle spasms and muscle knots ended when one of my friends introduced me to a massage gun. This is a muscle massager used for deep tissue percussion for pain relief (massage gun therapy).

I used to have constant pain in the muscles in my left leg – my hamstring muscles, the lateral head, and medial head muscles. It was difficult to have a good night’s sleep because I’d wake up in excruciating pain.

Nothing I tried worked – over-the-counter medicines, prescription muscle relaxants, topical creams, and massage therapists. None of them gave me the much-needed relief I craved.

Then I tried a Massage Gun recommended by a good friend.

Female using a massage gun
A woman relieving painful muscles using a massage gun

I was finally able to get rid of the muscle knots and painful, taut muscles in my legs. It took a simple deep massage therapy session to feel a great difference with this simple, hand-held equipment.

If you need deep muscle massage to get rid of tense muscle contraction caused by immobility, lack of exercise, or too much exercise you should go for the massager.

A massage gun is known to offer the same results as a deep tissue massage. The percussive massage provided by a massage gun helps to improve muscle contraction, which results in the lengthening and strengthening of your muscles.

It has become a popular favorite tool for many athletes who use it for muscle therapy. The beauty of the massage gun is that you can get the benefits within minutes, in the comfort of your home, following your own schedule.

It makes it easier for you to manage your muscle health, whether you’re in sports, a fitness lover, or a retiree at home with muscle knots caused by lack of use.  

A massage gun is a proven important hack for successfully managing your muscle stress and pain within the shortest possible time.

Muscle spasms and when to see your doctor

If muscle spasms in your legs are affecting your quality of life, such as frequently interfering with your sleep, you should see your doctor.

If you have persisting muscle spasms, especially if they’re severe, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or a pain medication to help ease your discomfort.

He may also prescribe a calcium-channel blocker to relieve pain and stiffness and treat your muscle spasm.

Your doctor will inquire about your symptoms and perform a physical examination of your legs and feet.

He may also inquire if you have any other symptoms, such as numbness or swelling, which could indicate secondary leg cramping as a result of an underlying disease.

You may need more testing, such as blood tests and urine tests, to rule out other conditions.

There are two main situations where muscle spasms may be a sign of more serious underlying health problems

You should seek medical help if:

  • your cramps last for longer than 10 minutes, or if they don’t get better with exercise.
  • you develop spasms after coming in contact with toxic or poisonous substances such as lead or mercury

Your takeaway

Muscle spasms are usually short-lived and harmless, and they can be painful. You should be able to benefit from self-treatment as described above.

Do you have spasms frequently?

If you do, are they often extremely painful?

Consult your doctor if your muscles continue to hurt even after using a massage gun. He should be able to determine what is causing the unusual pain.

Read also: Top 10 Interesting Reasons Why You Have Muscle Pain

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