A number of people, both men and women often suffer from the problem of Nocturnal Leg Cramps. These are the kind of cramps that occur in the night and can also awaken the person from the sleep. These cramps mostly occur in the calf muscles but can also occur in the feet or the thighs. The cramps can be painful and it can last for a few minutes or longer in some situations.
What Is A Leg Cramp?
Leg cramps are quite common and are often harmless. This is a condition when the muscles in the leg get tight and quite painful all of a sudden. Leg cramps mostly occur in the calf muscles as we mentioned earlier, but it can also occur in any part of the leg, which includes your thighs or the feet. The cramps do not last long, but you might experience a little pain in the leg, which can last for a few hours.
Leg cramps while sleeping at night can occur all of a sudden without any symptoms and can occur more often in people who are above the age of 50.
Leg Cramps At Night A Classic Sign Of?
The Leg cramps can occur during the night for no specific reason and such a condition is known as an Idiopathic Leg Cramp. Also, leg cramps at night can be a classic sign of an illness or a health condition and this occurrence is termed as secondary leg cramps.
Some of The Causes for Secondary Leg Cramps are Listed Below.
- Leg cramps, especially those that occur during the night are quite common in pregnant women. Leg cramps at night during pregnancy are not considered to be harmful, but if you are worried, you can still have a word with your doctor.
- Severe leg cramps can also occur when you have done too much or exercising, or even when it is your first time working out.
- Leg cramps can also be a side effect of medications you are taking, especially those that help lower your cholesterol levels.
- In worst cases, leg cramps can also indicate a liver disease. Hence, if you are experiencing leg cramps at night quite often, it is better to consult a doctor for further examination.
When a leg cramp occurs, the muscle there contracts and this causes pain. This is also called as Spasm and it gets hard to control the muscle that gets contracted. In most of the cases, the cramps pass within a few seconds, but in some cases can last up to 10-15 minutes.
What Causes Leg Cramps At Night?
We already spoke about a few causes of leg cramps, but the causes for nocturnal leg cramps can be many. The cause is often unknown as there is no diagnosis involved, but commonly the occurrence can be linked to
- Sitting without much movement for a long duration
- Trying to over-extend the muscles
- Standing for a long time or working long on concrete floors
- Improper sitting posture
The occurrence of nocturnal leg cramps can also be linked to various other health conditions like,
Few people suffer from sudden dehydration where the water levels in the body get low and this, in turn, drops the salt levels. Such a condition can cause muscle cramps.
This is a neurological disease where the cells in the brain are affected.
People suffering from neuromuscular disorders like myopathy or neuropathy often experience sudden leg cramps in the night.
Structural disorders like flat feet can also cause nocturnal leg cramps.
Leg cramps can also occur due to the lack of vitamins and minerals. Nighttime leg cramps can also be caused due to potassium deficiency. Also known as Hypokalemia occurs when the potassium levels in the blood drop below normal.
What To Do For Leg Cramps At Night?
If you are having mild leg cramps at night, there are a few things to do to get rid of the pain. Also, there are certain preventive measures you can take to avoid their occurrence. Let us see what they are.
If you are having regular cramps, you can try stretching the calf muscles. To do this, you need to stand on a step with just the front half of your feet and the heels need to hang out from the edges of the step. Now start to lower the heels so that they move below the step’s level. Hold in this position for a few seconds and then lift back the heels to the first position. This exercise can be repeated for a few times.
If you feel that you are getting any respite from cramps even after exercising, you can as well try meditation or yoga. Severe leg cramps at night are common with pregnant women and these would slowly disappear after the delivery.
You can even follow a simple nighttime routine that will help avoid cramps. If you have a habit of sleeping on your back, make sure to point the toes backwards. You can use a pillow to properly position the feet. If you sleep on your front, you can hand the feet from the end of the bed as it keeps them relaxed. Also, make sure to keep the blankets loose.
Leg Cramps at Night Remedies
There are a few tips that you can follow to treat leg cramps or get some relief from the same.
- Try and prevent any kind of electrolyte imbalances.
- Try to stretch and massage your leg muscles.
- Always stay hydrated.
- You can even use heat packs or ice packs on the affected area to get relief from pain.
- Use Epsom Salt while taking bath.
- Use relaxing pain killing massage oils over the muscles. Peppermint or lavender too can be used.
Leg cramps can be hard but can be managed with ease. Do not panic or move your legs when you have a cramp. Stay still for a few seconds and the muscles start to relax by themselves. If the question, “are leg cramps at night a classic sign of some condition” bothering you, you can as well consult your doctor or a general checkup or diagnosis.
Medically Reviewed By
Maanasi specializes in health topics including diet and nutrition. A mother of an untiring seven year old, she enjoys nurturing her love affair with English. She is often found nestled with a book, plopped against a dozen pillows, smiling away at the brink of finishing yet another book of the many dozens, that adorn the shelves of her Mini Library!