Moger: Finding relief for leg cramps

Capital News seniors' fitness columnist Bobbi Moger offers options for dealing with leg muscle contractions and spasms.

One common cause of leg cramps for seniors is a lack of hydration as the sense of thirst diminishes with age.

A week rarely goes by without one of my senior citizen fitness clients complaining of leg cramps and wondering how to find relief.

Leg cramps are painful involuntary contractions or spasms of muscles in your legs usually involving your calf muscles, although muscles in your feet or thighs may cramp as well.

According to neurologist Dr. Robert Miller, leg cramps are related to muscle fatigue and nerve problems.

As we get older our muscles and nerves function less effectively.

Muscles get more weak and small and nerves wear out with the tissue becoming thin.

When that happens, the connection that the nerves make it to the muscle becomes less secure.

Cramps occur at the place where nerves meet muscle.

When the brain sends a signal for the muscle to move, the signal has to cross through tiny nerve terminals.

Excessive signalling and  excessive irritability, which may result from thinning and weakened nerves, seems to be the generator for cramping.

Other causes of leg cramps in older adults are associated with some medications, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration, and some diseases, such as diabetes due to nerve damage and kidney failure.

Diuretics, commonly known as “water pills,” help your body get rid of unneeded water and salt through the urine.

Getting rid of excess salt and fluid helps lower blood pressure and can make it easier for your heart to pump.

Diuretics may be used to treat a number of heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure, kidney and liver problems

Often time diuretic medications are associated with an increased loss of calcium and magnesium they can also cause sodium and potassium depletion.

Many patients who use diuretics happen to also be on low sodium restricted diets.

Therefore it is important to pay careful attention to the effects of diuretics on sodium and potassium and replacement of these elements as needed.

Another common cause of cramps is that older adults often do not hydrate themselves adequately likely because their sense of thirst diminishes with age.

Often just drinking more fluid will help reduce cramping.

The exact cause of cramps can be difficult to determine but the best prevention includes exercising, staying hydrated, talking to your doctor about side effects of medication, potentially needed vitamin and mineral supplements

Additional ways you may prevent cramping include:

• Apply heat or cold. Use a warm towel or heating pad on tense or tight muscles.

• For a cramp in the calf or a cramp in the back of the thigh (hamstring), try putting your weight on the affected leg and bending your knee slightly, or sit or lie down with your leg out straight and pull the top of your foot toward your head.

• For a cramp in the front of the thigh (quadriceps), hold onto a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back toward your buttock.

• Eating a banana a day provides electrolytes with its magnesium potassium and calcium.

• Stretching or riding a stationary bike a few minutes before going to bed will stretch the calf and hamstring muscles.

• Untucking the bed covers at the foot of your bed.

• Massaging the cramping area.

Bobbi Moger is a seniors’ fitness specialist in Kelowna.




Just Posted

Missing Kelowna woman found

Christine Olsen-Meissnitzer has been located

More than $270,000 raised for Kelowna-based hospice

10th Swinging with the Stars fundraiser for the Central Okanagan Hospice Assoc. is a big success

Former Kelowna councillor and radio talk show host Barrie Clark dies

Clark remembered as a fair-minded ‘statesman’ who saw the big picture when it came to Kelowna

Getting into the swing of spring

Kelowna garden shop is busy now that spring has finally arrived

Axe the tax says Kelowna city council

City says it wants B.C.’s Speculation Tax dumped because it could have a significant impact here

Rainy week ahead for Okanagan and Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecast rain for the next three days, starting Tuesday afternoon

Police officers injured in Trans Mountain pipeline arrests: RCMP

One suffered a head injury after being kicked, another hurt a knee, and a third hurt a hand

Horgan promises new school funding formula in B.C.

Premier addresses B.C. Teachers Federation AGM ahead of contract negotiations starting next year

Familiar faces return for writer’s fest

Some of the best return to Word on the Lake in Salmon Arm

Reader Photos: First day of spring around British Columbia

Our loyal viewers sent us some of their favourite Spring photos from all corners of the province

Five Canadian kids charged with making school threats

Police say online threats are on the rise

Not even Ellen DeGeneres can get Virtue, Moir to say they’re more than friends

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Tuesday

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

RCMP warn public to stop pouring gas on fires after three incidents

Police responded to three recent incidents that sent seven people to hospital

Most Read