According to medical experts, maximum episodes of leg cramps occur at night. Some important facts about nocturnal leg cramps have been discussed in the article below.
Leg cramps can affect any part of the leg; calf muscles are more affected than muscles in the feet or thighs. A leg cramp is characterized by a sudden involuntary contraction in the leg muscles that causes a sharp shooting pain in the affected area. This may be accompanied by stiffness. Mostly, an episode of leg cramp lasts from a few seconds to minutes. In most cases, doctors are approached by people who suffer from leg cramps that occur at night when they are asleep. Some people may even get leg cramps when they are waking up from sleep. Experts say that the elderly and pregnant women exhibit higher susceptibility to nocturnal leg cramps.
What Causes Leg Cramps At Night?
Most episodes of leg cramps that occur at night have no specific cause. Although they are painful or annoying, they are harmless. But in some people, such cramps may be associated with certain underlying medical problems. Conditions that may contribute to leg cramps at night or at any time of the day have been briefed in the following.
- Trauma to the leg muscles or overuse of the same.
- Being in a sedentary position for a long time; for instance, standing or sitting in the same position for hours.
- Leg cramps are common in people who stay dehydrated.
- Age could also be a risk factor for leg cramps. With age, tendons grow shorter and this may cause the involuntary muscle contraction leading to cramps.
- Pregnancy may put extra strain on the leg muscles, and this may increase the likelihood of cramps.
- Chronic medical problems such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, peripheral artery disease, and kidney failure are also included in the list of offenders.
- Mineral deficiency increases a person’s susceptibility to develop cramps in several areas of the body.
- Leg cramps could also be an outcome of certain medicines.
Treating leg cramps involves diagnosing any preexisting medical condition that the affected person might have. Usually, treating the underlying problem helps manage and relieve the cramps. For instance, if diabetes is acting as a trigger for the cramps, then following a diabetic diet and doing regular exercise may help manage the problem. However, for leg cramps that are not associated with any other medical condition, treatment usually involves a combination of pain relievers and exercises. There are certain self-care measures which when followed as recommended, may also help in reducing the severity of leg cramps.
# Increasing the level of potassium in your diet may help reduce the frequency of cramps. Some good food sources of potassium include:
- The cabbage/broccoli family of vegetables
- Saltwater fish (like tuna)
# Pain from leg cramps that might occur suddenly after getting up from the bed can be relieved by applying a hot compress and massaging the cramped muscles. Even soaking the affected leg in warm water may reduce the pain to a great extent.
# Stretching the legs several times a day helps in easing the tension in the leg muscles and reduces the risk of contraction thus cramps. There are two common exercises that help reduce the severity of cramps. They include:
Sit comfortably on a flat surface with your legs straight in front of you. Now touch your toes and pull them back until you feel a stretch in your calf muscle.
Stand about 3 feet away from a wall. Place both hands on the wall at eye level. Bring one foot forward and keep it between the wall and the back foot. Now keeping your back foot straight, bend your front foot until you feel a stretch in the calf muscle of the back leg. Hold this position for about 10-15 seconds, and repeat the exercise for 5 minutes. Perform this exercise three times a day.
Tip: Best time to do the above exercises is before going to bed and after waking up.
Mostly, a healthy diet and daily exercise help manage leg cramps. However, if the problem subsides only to come back, and if it becomes worse with time, then this might indicate other severe problems in the body. In such a case, get yourself diagnosed by a qualified doctor so that potential problems can be ruled out.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.