Nocturnal leg cramps are the painful cramps that occur during the night, sometimes they can be so intense, that the pain can awake us from our sleep. The pain that they cause can make our muscles to feel knotted or tight.
Most commonly the nocturnal leg cramps occur in our calf, but they also know to appear in the feet and thighs too. The pain from nocturnal leg cramps, can last for a few seconds up to a few minutes.
After the pain from nocturnal leg cramp has passed, the soreness in the muscle can remain for the rest of the night, or sometimes it can remain throughout the next day. Both men and women, mostly over the age of 50 are very likely to experience nocturnal leg cramps if they are inactive.
Leg cramps at night, different from restless leg syndrome
Both the restless leg syndrome (RLS) and the nocturnal leg cramps, appear during the night, but that is the only similar thing between them. They are different in many things, here are some of them:
- RLS is more like a crawling feel in your legs and a discomfort.
- Nocturnal leg cramps cause pain, while RLS on the other hand doesn’t.
- Nocturnal leg cramps stops the movement, while on the other hand RLS causes a desire to move your legs.
- For nocturnal leg cramps, it doesn’t relieve from movement, it requires stretching, but for RLS moving offers a relief.
Causes and risk factors of leg cramps at night
The main cause for the nocturnal leg cramps is mostly unknown, but the most potential risks factors and causes for them, include:
- Sitting improperly
- Working or standing on concrete floors
- Extracting the muscles on the legs too much
- Sitting for a long period of time
Also nocturnal leg cramps can be caused from medical conditions such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes)
- Structural disorders (flat feet)
- Neuromuscular disordorders
- Beta agonists, statins, diuretics
Treatment and prevention for nocturnal leg cramps
The treatment for nocturnal leg cramps, depend from what were they caused.
Example: If you were dehydrated, and nocturnal leg cramps appeared, try staying hydrated through the whole day. Some other preventative methods and treatments for nocturnal leg cramps include:
- Take a warm, relaxing bath, to relieve from muscle tightness.
- Try using horse chestnut, it can help, because it improves the blood flow in your legs.
- To loosen your tight muscles, try the acupuncture treatment.
- Put a heating pad, on the affected area.
- Stretch your legs well, before going to bed.
- Make sure you are not in a lack of potassium or magnesium -- muscle cramping can occur if you are in deficiency in any of these two minerals.
- Avoid high heels, try wearing ergonomic shoes.
- To build your leg muscles stronger, do some exercises in water.
What to do when cramps occur?
When it occurs, it is very possible to leave you paralyzed for a while. But knowing how to act in this situation, may offer a relief from it, and will prevent from muscle soreness. Below we give you some tips on how to handle the nocturnal leg cramps:
- Massage the affected area, but be very gentle.
- Shake your legs for a bit, also shaking them while walking around will help more.
- Sit on the floor and stretch your legs in front of you, then pint your feet to you, you might also try to touch your feet for a better stretch.
- Take 1 tablespoon of mustard, and get a permanent relief.
- Make sure the sheets and blankets, were not too tight, that way it won’t make the muscle on the leg to contract.