There you are, tucked away deep in dreamland. Then it hits. You’re startled awake by excruciating pain in your calf. You can’t move and you don’t know what to do.
Calf cramps are the worst. Not only can they wake up in the middle of the night, but that can hit while you’re watching television or walking the dog. It seems like they don’t need any trigger whatsoever, but the result is always the same: big-time pain and immobility caused by an involuntary muscle contraction.
In some cases, although rare, these cramps will dissipate on their own in a few seconds. More common, however, is that they will last for a few minutes and you’ll have to stretch it out.
Cramps can be the result of several triggers. Sometimes it’s exercising, while other times it’s a mark or dehydration or nutrient deficiency. And for older folks, it is a reality of aging. Thankfully, age-related cramps can be managed with relative ease.
The reason why cramps are more common in seniors is the fact that tire more easily than they did when you were younger, while they are also more sensitive to lower amounts of fluid. Compromised nutrient absorption may also play a role.
You can give yourself a really good shot at preventing cramps by staying hydrated (shooting for the eight glasses per day—more if you’re active) as well as eating more potassium and magnesium-rich foods. Some options to consider are:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and whole grains
- Oranges, grapefruit, melon
If you do experience a cramp, you can stretch it by standing with your weight on the affected leg and slightly bending your knee in an attempt to extend the muscle. If you can’t stand, sit on the floor or on a chair (or on the bed) and extend your leg, pointing your toes back towards you.