Cramps can be extremely painful and even startling, especially when you’re in a deep sleep and are suddenly woken from that awful pain. Cramps can happen anywhere in your leg, but most suffer leg cramps mainly in their calves and hamstrings.
Leg cramps are more common than you probably think. Most adults will have an occasional leg cramp; however, they are more common in older people. According to recent studies, 1 out of 3 people over the age of 60 and about half of people over the age of 80 regularly suffer from leg cramps.
The facts are even more astonishing. Did you know that approximately 40% of people who suffer from leg cramps experience them at least three times a week?
What are Leg Cramps?
Muscles in our bodies have two common states: relaxed and contracted. A muscle is relaxed when all of the fibers are elongated. The muscle works when calcium goes into the muscle cells, and sodium rushes out. This causes the fibers in the muscle to shorten and the muscle contracts. This is a normal and healthy situation. Problems occur when the muscle stays contracted for an extended period, leading to pain.
A leg cramp is actually the result (the pain) that is caused by the muscle going into spasm (the muscle contracts too hard).
Leg cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, but the after-effect of the cramp can stay around for up to 24 hours.
What causes muscle cramps?
Similar to other medical conditions leg cramps remain a mystery to most doctors. Studies have shown that muscle cramps, in general, tend to be related to the following conditions or activities:
- Over exercising or injury.
- Pregnancy. Cramps may occur during the later months of pregnancy as calcium and magnesium tend to decrease.
- Extreme temperatures. Exposure to radical temperatures such a freezing weather.
- Medically related conditions such as thyroid disease or high blood pressure.
- Dehydration. Lack of water in your body.
- Side-Effects. Specific medications may cause leg cramps.
Common Treatments for Leg Cramps
In most cases, leg cramps will pass with time, though there are a few different common treatments that you can help ease the pain.
- Massage and slowly stretch the muscle.
- Place a hot heating pad on the area
- Place an ice pack on the area. Always place a cloth between the pack and your skin.
- O-T-C painkillers, such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- Hydrating with plenty of fluids.
How to Prevent Leg Cramps?
As the cause of leg cramps are still quite unknown, it is extremely hard to prevent them. With that being said, we’ve gathered a few of the best tips that can help you avoid getting leg cramps.
- Stretch and exercise consistently. But don’t over do it! Exercising and stretching forces your muscles to get moving and contract. It gets them used to the contraction process which can prevent sudden cramps in the future.
- Drink plenty of fluids, regularly. This method might take a little longer to kick in, but once you have had water or a sports drink with electrolytes, it should speed up the healing process and prevent future cramps.
- Cut back on alcohol consumption. Alcohol affects muscle fibers causing alcoholic myopathy. Drinking too much alcohol over time can weaken the muscles.
Marijuana and Leg Cramps
Due to current federal laws, not much research has been done on medical cannabis in regards to muscle spasms. Therefore the topic isn’t fully understood.
Nevertheless, research has been conducted on different illnesses and diseases that are associated with muscle spasms. One of those conditions is Multiple Sclerosis. Approximately 90% of MS patients develop spasticity. Some simply experience this condition as muscle stiffness; others endure cramps, constant ache or involuntary muscle contractions (spasms) that are both painful and debilitating. These spasms often affect the legs and can disrupt sleep.
Only recently has research discovered that cannabidiol, one of the active chemical compounds in marijuana activates nerve receptors that positively affect motor functioning.
Other studies are showing strong evidence that suggests that the right combination of THC and CBD can lead to muscle spasm relief. Multiple sclerosis patients achieved a 30% reduction in spasticity severity after 4 weeks of being treated with cannabis that contained THC and CBD.
Best Cannabis Strains to Relieve Leg Cramps
While the following strains haven’t officially been medically proven to treat and cure muscle spasms or leg cramp, patients are showing positive feedback and stating that it is helping them deal with the pain and prevent cramps from occurring.
Mendo Purps is a Sativa dominant strain that was born in Mendocino County, California. It’s high in THC, reaching 22 percent. This strain is great for several medical conditions including anxiety, PTSD, depression, bipolar and cancer. The high THC levels in this strain have been known to help with pain as it provides a mood stimulation and helps your body relax.
Unlike Mendo Purps which is high in THC, Redwood Kush is a hybrid strain (50% Sativa/ 50% Indica) that provides its patients with a strong and calming effect. Containing 14% of pure goodness, Redwood Kish is often used to help those that suffer from depression or stress attacks. It is also well known for controlling information of various types and muscle spasms.
Afghan Kush, aka Afghan OG, is an extremely popular strain and is often used for crossbreeding. Rich in THC and CBD (21%/6%), this strain is known for giving its patients the typical high that lasts up to 2 hours. This is one of the few strains that also provided significant medicinal values due to its high levels of CBD. Afghan Kush is known for relaxation and helping you sleep. It is also used for chronic pain and to muscle spasms.
This old dog isn’t going to show you any new tricks. When referring to White Widow, you get what you are paying for. Since the 90s this strain has been known for providing a cognitive driven high with a relaxing undertone. It’s the perfect strain to unwind, and if you are looking for a strain that combats stress, anxiety or pain, then White Widow should be on your list. It helps the body relax which is often exactly what your muscles need.
Blue Dream (BD) is one of those strains that is always changing. THC levels can range between 17%-24%, and CBD will tend to go as high as 2%. While Blue Dream won’t directly help your muscles, it does work other areas of your body. It is known for helping those with injuries and is perfect for combating stress and anxiety which will often lead to muscle tension, spasms, and cramps.
The Federal government hasn’t made it easy for researchers to understand the connection between cannabis and leg cramps since marijuana is still classed as a schedule 1 drug. With that being said, many patients are testifying that specific strains are helping them deal with their day to day conditions, including cramps, spasms, and chronic pain.
For more information on cannabis strains and different health conditions check out our Health Section on the website.