Many people suffer from leg cramps or nocturnal leg cramps which usually appear during the night. The pain is severe so it will wake you up in the middle of the night and it occurs due to prolonged inactivity. It usually appears in the lower leg but sometimes it appears in the feet and thighs. The pain can last for few seconds and sometimes for couple of minutes. Even when the pain is gone the muscle soreness can be felt the whole night and the following day as well. Men and women can suffer from leg cramps and they usually appear over the age of 50.
Nocturnal cramps and restless leg syndrome (RLS) happen overnight which is the only similarity between these two conditions. There are various differences between leg cramps at night and restless leg syndrome, as:
- When you move the leg in RLS you feel relive – you shouldn’t move the leg in nocturnal leg, instead stretching is recommended.
- RLS does not cause pain or cramping, while nocturnal leg cramps do.
- RLS is more of a discomfort or crawling feeling in your legs.
- If you suffer from RLS you will want to move the legs, while nocturnal leg cramps prevent movements.
Causes and risk factors of leg cramps at night
The reason and cause of nocturnal leg cramps is still undiscovered, but potential causes and risk factors are:
- Over-exertion of the muscles in the leg
- Standing or working on concrete floors
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Sitting improperly
Medical conditions, too, can cause nocturnal leg cramps, such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Endocrine disorders like diabetes
- Structural disorders like flat feet
- Diuretics, statins, beta agonists
- Neuromuscular disorders
Treatment and prevention
The treatment for leg cramps is linked with the cause. So, if the reason is dehydration the solution is to stay hydrated.
You must be sure that you do not suffer from magnesium or potassium deficiency as it causes muscle cramping.
- First you have to stretch your legs before going to bed,
- Do water exercises to make your leg muscles stronger.
- Wear ergonomic shoes and not high heels.
- Use horse chestnut, which is proven to increase blood flow in the legs.
- Take a relaxing, warm bath before going to bed to get rid of any muscle tightness.
- Put warm pad to the affected area.
- Try acupuncture treatment.
What to do when spasms happen
It is very important to know what to do when the spasm suddenly happens during the night. You can relieve pain in the moment and afterwards. Below, there are a few tips how to help yourself in those moments:
- Put your both legs in front you while you are sitting on the floor. Then bend your feet and point your toes toward your knees – you may need to pull on your feet to stretch out better.
- Get up slowly and turn around a bit – shaking your legs can likewise improve blood flow.
- Carefully rub the region with circular movements.
- Consume a tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.