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A muscle cramp is a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. It often occurs in the legs. ... Night-time leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles in the calf.

Controlling painful leg cramps

Several factors, including dehydration, use of diuretics or overuse of your muscles, can trigger leg cramps. They usually occur during rest or sleep. Your doctor may prescribe quinine or a muscle relaxant if you have frequent leg cramps.

To prevent leg cramps:

• Stretch daily

At least three times a day, including before bedtime, stretch your calves and feet. Stand two to three feet from a wall, placing your hands on the wall. Keep your heels on the floor. Lean toward the wall and bend one knee. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Straighten your leg. Repeat with the other knee. Stretch each leg at least three times.

• Drink plenty of liquids daily

Fluids help your muscles contract and relax.

To relieve leg cramps:

• Stretch and massage

Straighten your leg and point your toes upward while you gently rub the cramp to help the muscle relax.

• Stand up

For a calf cramp, put your weight on the cramped leg and slight- ly bend your knee. For a thigh cramp, keep both legs straight and lean forward at the waist. Use a chair to steady yourself.

• Apply cold or heat

Use a cold pack to relax tense muscles. Use a warm towel or heating pad later if you have pain and tenderness.

Smruti Shah

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