Leg muscle cramp during hiking usually occurs on thigh or calve muscle, likely due to dehydration/electrolyte imbalance or muscle fatigue caused by heavy exercise. In order to prevent cramp, eat and drink reasonably while trekking on a long hike. If you are going for a harsh and tough hike, please prepare the physical body adapting to strenuous activity. Prior to the hike, engage in a couple of short hikes, cycling or running for at least 30 min each time on every alternate day may help.
Some tips on how to prevent leg muscle cramp/spasm during hiking:
- Before begin, warm up. Stretch muscles gently and massage the limbs that most likely to be affected.
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids before/during/after the hike.
- Eat to prevent low sugar level.
- Apply topical analgesics on tense or tight muscles.
- Consume adequate fluid/isotonic drink.
- Stay active and avoid resting/sitting too long during the hike.
- Wear proper foot gear and keep the toe nails short.
Leg muscle cramp is a common encounter among hikers and at times, it is unpreventable. If leg muscle cramp, stop walking. Massage the muscle gently on both the injured and healthy legs. Treat the muscle by stretching according to the muscle groups as suggested by http://www.doctorsexercise.com/journal/cramp.htm.:
1. Treating Cramp of Front of the Thigh (Quadriceps)
If cramp occurs front of the right thigh, while sitting, place left ankle behind the right ankle and pull back with as much force as you can with the right ankle, while applying pressure with the left ankle. By contracting the right thigh (quadriceps); the cramp is relieved. If the cramp occurs in the left thigh, reverse this procedure.
2. Treating Cramp of the Back of the Thigh (Hamstrings)
If cramp occurs back of the right thigh, place right ankle behind the left ankle and push hard with the right ankle, using the left leg as an anchor. The contraction of the Hamstring relieves the cramp. If the cramp occurs in the left Hamstring, reverse the above procedure.
3. Treating a Cramp of the Calve (Gastrocnemious)
If the cramp occurs in the right Calve, you can apply pressure while sitting or lying down. Place left foot over the right instep and pull the right foot towards you, and push with the left foot, using as much pressure as you can, causing stretching or “extension” of the lower leg muscles, thus relieving the cramp. If the cramp occurs in the left Calve, reverse the procedure.
Applying topical pain counter or muscle relaxant gel may generate some heat to relieve the muscle. Take some salt and gulp some water or drink some isotonic. Once the painful muscle stops contracting, carry on with a slow walk using a hiking pole.
Hope this helps and have a pleasant adventure in your hike!
Stay fit and stay healthy!