Mercy Internist Dr. David Scharff Discusses Causes And Treatments For Leg Cramps On WBAL-TV11's "Woman's Doctor"

May 27, 2011
Mercy internist Dr. David Scharff

Mercy internist Dr. David Scharff

While people get leg cramps for a variety of reasons, there are ways to prevent them.

According to Mercy Medical Center internist Dr. David Scharff, normally when people move, their leg muscles contract and relax naturally, but that's not so with leg cramps.

"The muscle on its own completely contracts and won't let go, and it can be quite painful," he said.

While the exact causes of leg cramps is a topic of debate, physicians do believe overexertion and muscle fatigue, dehydration, exercising or working in the heat and electrolyte imbalance are all factors.

Donna Higgs is a personal trainer and considers herself lucky because she doesn't get leg cramps, but that's not the case for many of her clients.

"A lot of my clients have come to me with leg cramps and wanted solutions for that," she said.

Higgs tells her clients that it's important to stretch muscles to prevent the cramps.

"Do some light stretching in the beginning and then, after the workout, deeper stretching. On days in between, something like yoga is really important to keep the muscles and everything nice and flexible," she said.

Whether the leg cramp comes on during a workout or while you're asleep, stretching is the way to treat it.

"Just to get the muscle back into its natural, noncontracted state. So, we try to do gentle stretching of the muscle group that is cramped up to relax," Dr. Scharff said. He added that some people drink tonic water before bed to prevent nightly leg cramps because it contains quinine, which is known to help reduce pain and inflammation. Whether you do that or not, it's important to stay hydrated.

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874, Mercy Medical Center is a university-affiliated medical facility named one of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. by Thomson-Reuters with a national reputation for women’s health. Mercy is home to the nationally acclaimed Weinberg Center for Women’s Health and Medicine as well as the $400+ million, 20-story Mary Catherine Bunting Center. For more information visit Mercy online at, Facebook, Twitter or call 1-800-MD-MERCY.

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