What causes leg and calf cramps at night

Only imagine that you are lying down and your lower leg seizes. This kind of pain is intense enough so to make you want to scream and it doesn’t let up and your muscle is hard to the touch. When you will try to move your leg, it kind of feels paralyzed. Does this sound familiar?

In accordance to American Family Physician, the nocturnal leg and calf cramp can affect up to 60 percent of adults and many times it is referred to as muscle spasms or charley horses, and they occur when one or more of the muscles in the leg tighten involuntarily.

Having these leg cramps most often affect the gastrocnemius muscle (calf muscle – calf cramp) which spans the back of each leg from the ankle to the knee. But, they may also affect the muscles at the front of each thigh (quadriceps) and the back of each thigh (hamstrings).

You might be awake or asleep when a leg cramp happens but most of the time, the muscle relaxes itself in less than 10 minutes. Your leg can kind of feel sore or tender for up to a day afterwards. Having often calf cramp at night can disrupt your sleep.

Experiencing leg cramps during sleep are more common among women and older adults.

How to stop leg cramps at night

These following tips are able to  help you avoid leg cramps while sleeping:

  • Consume plenty of fluids. These allow for normal muscle function and you may need to adjust how much fluid you drink based on the factors as the weather and your age, activity level, and also the medication you’re taking.
  • Ride a stationary bike.Only few minutes of easy pedaling might help loosen up your leg muscles before you go to sleep.
  • Stretch your legs often .When stretching your calves and hamstrings before bed it may be able to reduce the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps.
  • Avoid some heavy or tucked-in bedding. This kind of  bedding could push your feet downward while you are asleep. Use some loose, untucked sheets, and a comforter that can allow you to keep your feet and toes upright while you are sleeping .
  • Change the sleeping position.You shall always  avoid sleeping in positions in which your feet are pointing downward so give a try to sleeping on your back with a pillow behind your knees.
  • Choose supportive footwear.Some poor footwear might be able to aggravate issues with the nerves and muscles in your feet and legs, most often and especially if you have flat feet.
Treating leg and calf cramps

Although the leg cramps at night may be intensely painful, they are actually not typically serious. Most of the people who will experience them will not need medical treatment.

So try the following at home to try to relieve a cramp:

  • Massage your legs.Rubbing this muscle that is affected may help it relax. Use both hands  so to gently knead and loosen the muscle.
  • Apply some heat.Warmth  can soothe tight muscles. Place a hot towel, some hot water bottle, or a heating pad to the affected area. Also , taking a warm bath or shower might  
  • In case  the cramp is in your calf, then straighten your leg. Flex the foot so that it is lifted to face you and your toes are pointing towards you.
  • Walk on your heels.This one can actually  activate the muscles opposite your calf, while allowing it to relax.
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller in case your leg is sore after. The nonsteroidal and  anti-inflammatory drugs as for example  ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and also naproxen (Aleve) may help relieve tenderness after a cramp. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) might be able to work as well.
  • Drink pickle juice. The exists some evidence that suggests that drinking a small amount of pickle juice might  help relieve muscle cramps.

In case often cramps are disrupting your sleep, you should make an appointment with your doctor so they might prescribe a muscle relaxant to prevent future  cramps. If there is a reason that cramps are related to another medical condition, they can help manage that too.

Nocturnal leg cramp causes

Researchers do not really and  exactly know what causes leg cramps during night. But there are, so known factors that may increase your risk. In a good number of cases, nocturnal leg cramps are idiopathic, which in turn means their exact cause isn’t known.

In a time during night these cramps may be related to foot position because we often tend to sleep with our feet and toes extending away from the rest of our bodies, which is a position called plantar flexion.This can shorten the calf muscles, while making them more susceptible to cramping.

There are some other factors that may contribute to nighttime leg cramps include:

  • Improper sitting position. If you are sitting  with your legs crossed or your toes pointed for a long periods of time it shortens the calf muscles, which may in turn  lead to cramping.
  • Sedentary life style. Your muscles may need to be stretched regularly in order to function properly so sitting  for long periods of time could make leg muscles more susceptible to cramping.
  • Muscle overexertion. Doing a lot of exercise may create an overworked muscle and may be associated with muscle cramps.
  • Prolonged standing. These is some research that suggests that people who stand for long periods of time at work are more likely to experience nocturnal leg cramps.
  • Abnormal nerve activity. As electromyographic studies show, leg cramps are associated with some increased, and some abnormal nerve firing.
  • Shortening of the tendons. These, that connect muscles and bones, shorten naturally over time. And, it could lead to cramping in the muscles.

Having leg cramps at night are unlikely to be the first sign of a more serious medical condition. But, they are kind of associated with the following conditions:

  • pregnancy
  • musculoskeletal disorders, as for example osteoarthritis
  • some structural issues, such as flat feet or a spinal stenosis
  • some neurological disorders, as for example motor neuron disease or peripheral neuropathy
  • cardiovascular conditions, a heart disease or peripheral vascular disease
  • neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • some medications, as statins and diuretics
  • kidney, liver, and thyroid conditions
  • metabolic disorders, as diabetes

How to Prevent and Treat Painful Leg and Calf Cramps that Begin When You’re in Bed

Takeaway

In case you’ve ever experienced leg cramps during night, you surely know how painful they can be. But, fortunately they’re usually not a sign of a serious problem. If stretching the calf and hamstring muscles before bed may help to prevent nocturnal leg cramps.

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