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Causes of Cramps in the Upper Leg

By Megan Smith ; Updated July 27, 2017

What are Leg Cramps?

Upper leg cramps are when the muscle contracts in the leg. Usually the muscle contracts suddenly and with no warning, although you may be expecting leg cramps if you have done a large amount of exercise or strenuous activity involving your legs. A leg cramp may feel like someone is poking you in the leg, like a muscle in your leg is engaging without you moving it, or like your leg muscle is essentially stuck in position. Leg cramps are not dangerous in most cases, but if you feel consistent stabbing pains in your leg, you may be suffering from a blood clot and should go to the doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are usually the cause of overexertion or dehydration. Leg cramps are common in older people because of weakened, atrophied muscles, and pregnant women, because of the extra water and baby weight they are carrying. Leg cramps can also be the cause of low potassium levels in the body. To prevent leg cramps from occurring, drink plenty of water and electrolyte-containing beverages throughout the day, eat bananas to raise potassium, and avoid overexertion, especially of the legs.

When Leg Cramps are Serious

In rare cases, leg cramps can also be the result of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, hyperthyroidism, cirrhosis of the liver and alcoholism. Leg cramps are also side effects of some medications, including several blood pressure medications. If you are taking any new medications and are experiencing leg cramps, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If you have any of the diseases or disorders listed above, contact your doctor and tell her that you are suffering from leg cramps for a complete medical diagnosis.

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