Leg cramps at night occur during sleeping. They are an unpleasant issue which wakes you up at night, and are caused by your inactivity during the day. They occur mostly in the calf, but can also occur in the thighs and feet. The pain lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes, and the muscles are sore after it goes away. Leg cramps affect both sexes over the age of fifty.

Nocturnal leg cramps differ from restless leg syndrome

Both conditions occur at night, but are not the same. The other symptoms differ from each other. Here are some of them:

– RLS is a feeling of soreness or crawling in the legs;

– RLS doesn’t induce cramps or pain;

– Moving your leg relieves pain in RLS, unlike leg cramps that do not allow you to move your leg;

– RLS makes you want to move your legs, and nocturnal leg cramps avoid movement.

Causes and risks

The exact cause of nocturnal leg cramps is still elusive, but there are potential risk factors that might trigger the issue, such as:

– over-extension of the leg muscles;

– inactivity for a long time;

– improper sitting;

– standing for a long time or working on concrete floors.

There are some conditions which can cause the nocturnal leg cramps:

– alcoholism

– pregnancy

– dehydration

– neuromuscular disorders

– endocrine disorders (diabetes)

– structural disorders (flat feet)

– Parkinson’s disease

– statins, diuretics, beta agonists

Treatment and prevention

The treatment for nocturnal leg cramps depends on the cause. If dehydration is the cause, you should drink more liquids during the day. Here are a few more treatment and preventive measures against nocturnal leg cramps:

– You can place a heating pad on the affected area;

– eat some horse chestnuts, which can stimulate blood flow in the body;

– take a relaxing warm bath before sleeping;

– consume more potassium and magnesium, which are important for the muscles;

– try acupuncture to loose the tightness in the muscles;

– make sure your shoes are comfortable and ergonomic; avoid high heels;

– stretch before going to bed;

– do water exercises to strengthen the muscles.

What to do in case of nocturnal leg cramps?

When a leg cramps strikes at night, you are almost paralyzed and in pain. You should learn how to handle cramps and relieve the soreness afterwards. Here are some tips on that:

– a tablespoon of yellow mustard will relieve the discomfort;

– get up and try to walk, and shake the legs so the blood can circulate better;

– sit on the floor, extend the legs in front and flex the feet at the ankles. Then, point your toes towards the knees and pull the feet to stretch better;

– massage the cramped area with circular motions;

– check if the sheets and blanket are loose enough so they don’t contract the muscles.