Leg cramps occur due to a wide variety of causes. One important cause is menstruation. During menses, women lose a significant amount of blood. This results in loss of iron (from hemoglobin) and other minerals like potassium and magnesium.
During heavy or prolonged menses (polymenorrhoea), this loss is even greater. Depletion of these vital minerals causes increased irritability of the skeletal muscles of the calf and lower limbs, precipitating painful spasms of the muscles. Leg cramps can occur for 3 to 7 days during the menstrual phase and is more so if the patient is dehydrated or has heavy physical exertion.
Prevention of cramps lies in controlling the risk factors or precipitating causes of this condition. One important precaution is to prevent dehydration by increasing fluid intake. Women should also increase the intake of crucial electrolytes like potassium and magnesium during and after this phase.
The cramped muscle is painful to the touch (tender) and is usually harder than normal muscles. At the onset of cramps it is best to cease all physical activity and gently massage the affected areas. It is also advisable to lie on your back with your leg raised. Next, gently flex the knee. This position and flexing causes relaxation of the muscles. Then attempt to straighten the knee, while continuing the gentle massage. Prevent dehydration by consuming 5 to 8 glasses of water or other liquids daily. During acute attacks themselves it is also a good idea to drink plenty of water. This can be followed by a warm water bath. Some physicians advocate the adding of Epsom salt to the bath water though this isn’t strictly necessary.
Along with these methods, women who are prone to leg cramps during menses should consume foods rich in potassium like bananas, mollusks, white fish and avocadoes. Foods rich in calcium, like milk and cheese, as well as curd are advisable. Magnesium rich foods like black beans, barley and artichokes are help to restore magnesium levels. Various home remedies are also used to treat leg cramps. Add chamomile tea to warm water and then wash the affected (cramped) muscle in it for 15 to 20 minutes. Some advocate adding sea salt and baking soda to a tub of warm water and soaking the cramped leg in it for 10 minutes. Another home remedy is to orally consume a cup of yogurt every morning. Use of pumpkin seeds as a preventive measure has also been tried to some positive effect. Once the menses begin, eat one or two bananas during every meal. These supply much needed potassium to the diet. Herbal tea using a combination of lemon and ginger can also be very useful. Drinking a cup of this tea is often very helpful in preventing leg cramps. Often it is not any single remedy but a combination of several of these that make an effective defense against muscle cramps during menses.
Leg Cramp Research