Perhaps because I am prone to weird, random muscle cramps myself and understand the pain first hand of the unpredictable force that can twist my hands and feet into odd positions.
My heart goes out to my patients who also suffer from these attacks.
I’ve had them all-
-Nighttime ones in my calves and feet that make me jump out (if I’m able) of a dead sleep
-back/flank spasms during swimming (that make me feel that I might drown)
-pregnancy related ones which made my fingers twist and contort in broad daylight-freaking out my husband and mother as they tried to help force my fingers back into position
–post exercise or dehydration cramps from not hydrating well
-menstrual cramps (we’ll cover that in another article)
Bottom line- no one knows for sure the true mechanism or causes of muscle cramps, but there are some known triggers. Some of us women are also simply more prone to get them compared to others. My mom still gets them in her 70’s poor thing…
Here’s what you can try (what I do too) to prevent them-
1. Stay well hydrated, and supplement with less sugary electrolyte drinks if exerting (exercise, hiking, swimming, or out in the elements).
Some athletes actually drink pickle juice!
2. Stretches and a good soak with warm water before you go to bed can prevent those pesky nighttime leg cramps.
In the colder months I even wrap my lower legs and feet with an electric blanket on the low setting.
3. Discuss with your health provider if a supplement of calcium, magnesium, and/or potassium is right for you
4. If your older, smoke, or have other chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes; make sure your cramps are not a sign of peripheral arterial disease (aka “circulation” issues).
Often, the medications/RXs to treat these can cause cramps too.
5. Some take a bedtime Tylenol or Advil during the days when cramps seem more prevalent.
6. If your cramps occur frequently then get screened for low or high thyroid, anemia and restless legs syndrome
Once they hit though there’s not much you can do but hop around and try to massage the hard malpositioned muscle back into place. If you are lucky it only takes a few seconds.
If you’re unlucky, it can take agonizing minutes or wax and wane for longer resulting in a sore, bruised area that can hurt for hours or days.
My heart goes out to you- you’re not alone. There’s really no time or ability to do the other things like jump into a hot bath and take pain pills after they hit.