The problem of leg cramps in the elderly
The first thing to remember, muscle cramps, especially in the legs is common among the older population. For this reason, individuals above 65 years experience leg cramps more often than their younger counterparts. Also, leg cramps or muscle cramps, also known as Charley horses. As a result, these are painful muscle contraction which occurs mainly during the night hours. And for this reason, they are also referred to as nocturnal leg cramps. In other words, this disturbs the sleep of our elderly and there is muscle is cramped and painful throughout the night.
Understanding leg cramps
For one thing, leg cramps usually occur in the calf muscle, but can also affect the thighs as well as the feet. In this case, according to Neurologist Miller, older individuals suffer from leg cramps because of their age. As a result, the nerves control muscles and with age, the nerves wear out. To put it differently, causing the involuntary contraction of muscles. It is important to realize, the cramps last for few seconds to several minutes. Another key point, the muscles contract, when they receive the repeated signal from irritated nerves to contract.
So far, the pathophysiology behind the occurrence of muscle cramps is not very clear. But, according to various studies, the “squatting” hypothesis is the major reason behind the occurrence of cramps. The most compelling evidence, our ancestors always used the squat position for the toilet, which causes shortening of the muscles and tendons. For this reason, such a type of phenomenon puts the individual at risk of developing muscle cramps. In the modern times, the resting position is for toilets, and it doesn’t require many muscles of the leg.
Causes of involuntary muscle contraction
Improper blood flow to the muscle
Medications such as diuretics, which can cause potassium deficiency
Dehydration, which can cause a severe depletion of magnesium and other important electrolytes
Compression of the nerves in the spine
Staying in a certain position too long
Other more serious causes
Peripheral artery disease
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy
Treatment of leg cramps
Although this may be true, medications have been effective in treating nocturnal muscle cramps. On the other hand, painkillers are too slow in taking action and preventing further attacks. By the same token, Quinine has been extremely effective. However, overuse of quinine comes with its own set of side effects and is not recommended. Be that as it may, in the year 2010, a report published by the FDA stated. Quinine for treating nocturnal leg cramps has serious side effects.
The pickle juice story behind muscle cramps
Another key point, pickle juice has been a wonderful remedy for relieving muscle cramps. And to support this, there have been some scientific studies stating the effectiveness of pickle juice in relieving cramps. At the same time, one research Dr. Kevin Miller, at North Dakota State University studied the efficacy of pickle juice in limiting or inhibiting the muscle cramps. In this study, he induced muscle cramps in volunteers, using electrical stimulation. With this in mind, to one group he gave plain water and to the other pickle juice.
The most compelling evidence, the finding surprised everyone. In this case, the group that drank pickle juice experienced short duration muscle cramps. As a result, according to the experts, there is an ion channel known as TRPV1, which activates the spinal column. Thereby inhibiting the firing of the nerves, that cause the involuntary muscle contraction. Another key point, it is assuming that the pickle juice contains these protons. Which helps in shortening the duration and limiting the muscle cramps. However, the research findings are to take with a pinch of salt, as pickle juice contains loads of sodium in it. Therefore, elderly with heart disease or hypertension should not be taking it often. Here are certain tips for elderly to help them with the problem of muscle cramps.
Other home remedies to help
It is important to realize, swallowing one teaspoon of yellow mustard will help to relieve muscle cramps within minutes. In other words, the possible reason could be that it contains acetic acid. As a result, this can promote the production of acetylcholine in the body. For this reason, Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that prompts muscles to work and relieve the pain.
Organic/Raw/Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar
Another key point, it contains a large amount of potassium that helps replenish and relieve muscle cramps. For this reason, mix one tablespoon with a glass of warm water daily to prevent leg cramps.
Soak in a tub with 2 cups of Epsom salt. As a result, it contains magnesium, which promotes muscle relaxation.
Black Strap Molasses
It is important to realize, It is a great source of calcium and potassium to prevent leg cramps. For this reason, mix it with milk or warm water for relief.
The anti-inflammatory effects can calm the muscle in question. As a result, steep one once of rosemary leaves then soak a cloth and place on the affected area for 10-20 minutes. In this case, it will absorb into the skin to relax the muscle cramp.
Tips to deal with muscle cramps in the elderly
Although this may be true, quinine and pickle juice might not be favorable for our elderly loved one. There are certain tips that can be of help.
This is one of the best ways to stay fit and avoid cramps. If your elderly is healthy enough to perform mild exercises, it is best to encourage them to do so. Exercising helps to keep the muscles and nerves active. And this would help in preventing cramps.
Drink plenty of fluids
Preventing dehydration is also known to prevent muscle cramps. Therefore, staying well hydrated can be of help.
Magnesium and vitamin D supplements
Some experts have said that taking magnesium and Vitamin D supplements can help in relieving muscle cramps.
Taking a daily dose of vitamin E can prevent leg cramps at night. It improves blood flow through the arteries.
Massaging the affected area will help or add heat and stretching to the massage for relief.
Leg cramps make life really difficult for our elderly loved ones. Helping them during this phase becomes our prime responsibility. The above-mentioned tips are sure to help you effectively manage the problem of leg cramps.
I too get massive leg cramps that wake me up during the night or hurt me during the day. They affect all parts of my leg. In the back of my calf, and the back of my thigh. I think this is from sitting too much. So I also stand to write my post. My favorite remedy is dill pickle juice. I have also started taking a multi-vitamin with calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. If you do not experience relief from the above tips, remedies, and suggestions. Please do not hesitate to consult your doctor. Also, for more information about legs, check out this post on leg tremors. https://theultimatecaregivingexpert.com/2017/10/24/help-leg-tremors/