Leg Pain at Night

Is leg pain depriving you of a good night's sleep? We're discussing the causes behind it and appropriate measures to treat it in the article that follows.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2018
It can be exasperating to have leg cramps or leg pain in the middle of the night. Leg cramps are quite common in case of adults, and their occurrence may increase as one ages. Even children are known to experience leg pain in their growing stages. There are many causes for it, ranging from severe to minor. Let's take a look at them before we move on to learning about the treatment options.
What Causes Leg Pain at Night?
Usually, leg pain is mostly a result of routine wear and tear of muscles. It could be caused due to exertion, fatigue or even over-exercising. Internal injuries to the muscles or tendons can also give you considerable trouble. Besides these regular causes, there are a few other factors that cause leg pain as well.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Any person with the restless leg syndrome (RLS), always keeps his/her legs moving, in order to ease pain in the area. This discomfort becomes noticeable as the person rests at night. The symptoms of RLS worsen at night, causing a stinging sensation in the leg. This often leads to insomnia. Causes of RLS could be obesity, pregnancy, iron deficiency (anemia), smoking and hypothyroidism. However, most cases of this disease prove that it can be transferred genetically.
Treatment

  • Stretching the legs, or moving them gently can bring relief.
  • Massaging the area will prove helpful.
  • You can try soaking your legs in warm water before bedtime.
  • If anemia is the cause, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements.
  • Going for a short walk may help.
Charley Horse
Charley Horse refers to leg cramps caused by muscle spasm. It is characterized by a hardened leg muscle that is quite painful to touch. A muscle cramp in the night, usually in the calf region, can be due to dehydration, hormonal imbalance or a deficiency of potassium and magnesium. It can also be caused due to strenuous exercise or as a side effect of medicines. In the second trimester of pregnancy, muscle cramps can cause severe pain.
Treatment

  • The best way to relieve a cramp is to provide support to the affected leg and gently try to stretch it.
  • If possible, try to stand and move your leg.
  • Application of heat pads may bring relief from the pain.
  • Once the pain subsides, a cold compress will help relax the muscle.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep dehydration at bay.
  • If the pain persists, see your doctor, who may prescribe muscle relaxers.
Diabetic Neuropathy
In diabetic neuropathy, the nerves in the legs suffer damage due to improper blood circulation. It causes pain, accompanied by numbness in the extremities. One may even experience a tingling or burning sensation in the legs or hands. This may be followed by loss of sensation in the area. Those suffering from fluctuations in blood pressure levels may also be affected.
Treatment

  • Efficiently try to keep your blood sugar level in the normal range.
  • Your doctor will prescribe appropriate medication to relieve the pain.
  • As a diabetic, ensure that you have an annual foot examination to prevent this ailment.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is characterized by a blood clot embedded in one of the veins of the leg. This condition can cause inflammation in legs. Obesity, heart attack, recent childbirth, respiratory disorders, and stroke are some of the causes of deep vein thrombosis.
Treatment

  • You may be prescribed blood thinners.
  • You may be asked to wear a compression stocking, which will help improve blood circulation.
  • In some cases the patient may have to undergo a surgery.
Sciatica
The sciatic nerve branches from your lower back, going downwards through your legs. When a herniated disc or a bone spur on the spine compresses this nerve, it results in pain, inflammation, and numbness. Usually, it is seen to affect only one side of the body.
Treatment

  • Applying an ice pack to the area usually brings relief.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen may be consumed if the pain persists.
  • In case your troubles continue, it is necessary to see a doctor.
Other Causes
Women may experience leg cramps during menstruation.

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatoid disorder, which causes a shooting, burning pain in legs. The legs and joints may feel tender to touch, and symptoms tend to be at their worst in the mornings.

Alcoholism, dehydration, and hypothyroidism can cause leg cramps.

Sitting or standing for prolonged period, or sitting in an uncomfortable position, or a bad posture can also lead to leg pain.
Beware of Knee Trouble
If you are experiencing pain that is centered in the knee area, it should not be ignored. Do make sure that you consult a doctor at the earliest appearance of knee pain. The following ailments may trigger knee pain -
Arthritis
Cartilage injury
Ligament injury
Patellar tendonitis
Baker's Cyst
Plica Syndrome
Tips to Avoid Leg Pain
Drink lots of water and fruit juices. Dehydration is one of the main causes of muscle cramps. So, keep yourself hydrated throughout the day to prevent the cramps.
Warming up before exercise is very important. Hence, do not skip the warm-up session before your workout. Avoid over exercising; it may cause overuse of your muscles, leading to pain.
Have a healthy diet, rich in potassium and calcium. Mineral deficiency is also a major cause of leg cramps and can be minimized by a proper diet.
Lastly, do not go in for self-treatment if the pain is persistent. Consult a doctor in case you are suffering from leg pain at night.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.