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Leg Problems, Noninjury (cont.)

Prevention

The following tips may prevent leg problems.

General prevention tips

  • Drink extra water or an electrolyte replacement drink (such as Gatorade or Powerade) before, during, and after exercise, especially during hot or humid weather.
  • Warm up well and stretch before any activity. Stretch after exercise to keep hot muscles from shortening and cramping.
  • Avoid exercises and activities that cause you to point your toes, and do not wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Use the correct techniques (movements) or positions during activities so that you do not strain your muscles. Use good posture while exercising.
  • Use equipment appropriate to your size, strength, and ability.
  • Avoid overusing your leg doing repeated movements that can inflame or irritate your bursa or tendon. In daily routines or hobbies, think about activities in which you make repeated leg movements, and change the way you do the activities, if possible, to prevent leg problems from developing.
  • Consider taking lessons to learn the proper technique for sports. Have a trainer or person who is familiar with sports equipment check your equipment to see if it is well suited for your level of ability, body size, and body strength.
  • If you feel that certain activities at your workplace are causing pain or soreness from overuse, talk to your human resources department for information on alternative ways of doing your job or to discuss equipment modifications or other job assignments.
  • If cramps wake you at night, take a warm bath and do some stretching exercises before going to bed. Keep your legs warm, and try not to point your toes while sleeping.

Prevent swelling

  • Cut down on the amount of salt (sodium) you use in your diet. Sodium can be hidden in foods such as cheese, canned soups, and salad dressing. Consider making your own salt substitute. Talk to your doctor before trying a salt substitute.
  • Get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour if you sit for long periods. Gentle motion may help reduce swelling in the feet and ankles.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing or straps around the waist or upper legs that may affect circulation and feeling in the legs.

Keep bones strong

  • Eat a nutritious diet with enough calcium and vitamin D. (Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.) Calcium is found in dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt; dark green, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli; and other foods.
  • Exercise and stay active. It is best to do weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing, or lifting weights) for 45 to 60 minutes at least 4 days a week. Weight-bearing exercises stimulate new bone growth by working the muscles and bones against gravity. Exercises that are not weight-bearing, such as swimming, are good for your general health but do not stimulate new bone growth. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you. Begin slowly, especially if you have been inactive. For more information, see the topic Fitness.
  • Lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk for leg problems and makes it more difficult to do weight-bearing exercises.
  • Don't drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcoholic drink a day if you are a woman. People who drink more than this may be at higher risk for weakening bones (osteoporosis). Drinking alcohol also increases your risk of falls.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking puts you at a much higher risk for developing osteoporosis. It also interferes with blood supply and healing. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.

For information on how to prevent blood clots from developing in the legs, see the topic Deep Vein Thrombosis.

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