Leg cramps thathappen at night, which are also known as nocturnal leg cramps, are the pains that occur overnight when the person sleeps. These pains are a result of longer hours of inactivity and they can be so bad that the person is forced to wake up. Although the pain mostly happens in the calf, also the thighs and the feet can be affected.
It usually lasts for a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Once the cramp goes away, the muscle soreness could remain for the next few hours or even until the morning. The nocturnal leg cramps affect both the men and women and the people over the age of 50 are most susceptible to this problem.
Leg Cramps at Night VS Restless Leg Syndrome
The only thing that the restless leg syndrome (RLS) and the nocturnal leg cramps have in common is the fact that they both happenwhile you are asleep.
However, there are numerous differences between them, among which are these:
- RLS causes the desire to move the legs, while the nocturnal leg cramps very often prevent movement.
- Moving the leg when it’s in restless leg syndromecan offer a relief – but moving the leg in nocturnal leg cramps does not, instead it’s requiredto stretch the leg.
- Restless leg syndrome does not cause pain or cramping, while the nocturnal leg cramps do.
- Restless leg syndromeis more of a discomfort or crawling feeling in the legs.
The Causes and The Risk Factors of Leg Cramps at Night
Even though the real cause of the nocturnal leg cramps is not completely understood, the potential causes and risk factors are already known.
Here are they:
- Sitting improperly
- Overexertion of the muscles in the leg
- Standing or working on concrete floor
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
The leg cramps at night could be caused by medical conditions as well, and those are the following:
- Diuretics, statins, beta agonists
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Endocrine disorders such as diabetes
- Structural disorders such as flat feet
- Parkinson’s disease
Treatment and Prevention for The Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The treatment heavily depends on the underlying cause. For example, if the nocturnal leg crampsare caused by dehydration, you will need to make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day.
Other preventive measures and treatments are:
- Stretch your legs before going to bed.
- Avoid high heelsandwear ergonomic shoes.
- Partake in water exercises to build leg muscles.
- Use horse chestnut, which has been shown to increase blood flow to the legs.
- Take a warm, relaxingbath beforegoing to bedin order to ease all the muscles.
- Try acupuncture treatment to loosen the tight leg muscles.
- Apply a heating pad to the affected area.
- Ensure that you are not deficient in potassium ormagnesium because deficiencies in both minerals are related to muscle cramping.
How to React When The Cramps Occur?
Once the leg cramp strikes, the person is almost paralyzed. Therefore, it is essential that you know how to react in order to get an instant relief and feel less sore afterwards.
Here are some tips:
- Gently massage the cramp area in a circular motion.
- Ensure that the blankets and the sheets are not tight enough to make the leg muscle contract.
- Take one tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.
- Sit on the floor and extend both legs out in front of you. Now flex the feet at the ankles and point the toes toward the knees – you may want to tug on the feet so as to offer an even better stretch.
- Get up slowly and walk around for a while – shaking your legs will also improve the blood flow.