How can I stop getting leg cramps?

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1. Stopping cramps before they start

Many people suffer from cramp but waking up with leg cramps in the middle of the night is particularly distressing. This intense stabbing pain seems to appear out of nowhere.

Doctors are not sure why this happens but night cramps are often blamed on the side effects of some medicines or when your body is exerting itself more than normal, like during exercise or pregnancy.

But now experts think that some simple exercises could help to cut down on cramps during the night. These are stretches most of us tend to associate with sport. Trust Me I'm a Doctor is on hand with some easy to follow demonstrations.

2. INTERACTIVE: Cramp stretches

Click or tap on our interactive below to get more information, including demonstrations by Dr Michael Mosley, on the stretches you could perform before going to bed in order to cut down on cramps during the night.

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BBC iWonder content is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or other health care professional. Always consult your own GP if you are in any way concerned about your health.

3. Source of cramp

So what causes these cramps in the first place?

It is generally our leg muscles that are affected by night cramps as they are the most used muscles in our bodies. Exercise has also been shown to upset the delicate balance between our muscles and nerves. Yet even when we are most relaxed – lying in bed at night – the nerves can still give the wrong signals and our muscles contract.

But the exact cause of these cramps remains unknown, they could be related to a number of medical conditions or treatments.

Scientists used to believe that cramps were the result of dehydration and salt loss when we sweated heavily. But tests have shown that in most cases there is no direct relationship between dehydration and cramp.

4. Can food cure cramp?

What are some of the weird food cures that are suggested for stopping cramp once it starts? And is there any scientific evidence that any of them actually work?

Banana

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UNLIKELY TO WORK

Bananas are high in potassium – some think a lack of this mineral causes cramps. Even if this is true, it takes too long to get into your blood to stop a cramp.

Mustard

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UNLIKELY TO WORK

Mustard contains a number of ingredients that are believed by some cure cramps. But they would take too long to enter your system to be of help.

Pickle

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MORE PROMISING

Some research suggests drinking pickle juice reduces the length of a cramp. But scientists are not sure why. The recommended medical advice remains to stretch!