Surely at one point or another we have all experienced some a leg cramp at night while we were sleeping. Cramps can happen due to prolonged hours of inactivity and they can be so bad that you might be forced to wake up due to the pain. Even though this pain occurs mostly in the calf, it can affect the feet as well.
The cramps are also known as nocturnal cramps. They can last for a couple of seconds to a few minutes. Once the cramp passes the soreness may remain for the next few hours or up until the morning. These cramps can affect men and women too and people over 50 are most likely to be affected by this issue.
Leg Cramp at Night vs Restless Leg Syndrome
Before we talk more about leg cramps at night, we need to learn how to distinguish between these and restless leg syndrome. The only thing they have in common is that they both occur at night, while you are sleeping. However, everything else is different. They have the following differences:
- RLS does not cause pain or cramping, while nocturnal cramps do.
- RLS is more of a discomfort or a crawling feeling in your legs.
- RLS causes the desire to move the legs, while nocturnal leg cramps prevent movement.
- If you move the leg in RLS it can offer relief, while movement in leg cramps does not. You should stretch instead.
Causes and Risk Factors of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The real reason behind nocturnal leg cramps is not yet familiar, however, the potential causes and risk factors are, and those are the following:
- Sitting improperly
- Standing or working on concrete floor
- Overexertion of the muscles in the leg
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
Additionally, nocturnal leg cramps can be caused by medical conditions like:
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Diuretics, statins, beta agonists
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes
- Structural disorders like flat feet
- Neuromuscular disorders
Treatment and Prevention of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The treatment of this condition relies solely on the cause of it. For example, if it is due to dehydration then you have to stay hydrated during the day. Other preventive measures include:
- Partake in water exercises to build leg muscles.
- Stretch your legs before you go to bed.
- Ensure that you are not deficient in potassium or magnesium, if you are, this can lead to muscle cramping.
- Apply a heating pad to the affected area.
- Try acupuncture treatment to loosen the leg muscles.
- Wear ergonomic shoes and avoid high heels.
- Take a relaxing bath before bed to ease muscle tightness.
- Use horse chestnut which can increase the blood flow to the legs.
How to React When Cramps Occur?
It is of big importance to know how to react when cramps occur because the person affected is left paralyzed. Thus, you need to react to get instant relief and to feel less sore afterwards. Just do the following:
- Take a tablespoon of mustard to relieve discomfort.
- Massage the area gently in a circular motion.
- Get up slowly and walk around a bit, shake your legs as well to improve blood flow.
- Ensure blankets and sheets are not tight enough so the muscles do not contract.
- While you are sitting on the floor, extend both legs in front of you. Then, flex your feet at the ankles and point your toes toward your knees. Just tug on your feet for better stretch.
Now that you have enough information on nocturnal leg cramps you will know how to stop them and treat them when they do occur. This means that you will enjoy a cramp-free sleep in no time!