Leg Cramps at Night: Causes & Prevention
Leg cramps at night can be highly annoying and painful. They sometimes occur for no apparent reason and disrupt your sleep. Usually, leg cramps at night are related to nerve problems or muscle tiredness. In fact, the risk of experiencing one also goes up with age. So today, we are here to tell you everything you must know about muscle cramps and how you can prevent them. Read ahead!
What Are Nocturnal Leg Cramps?
Nocturnal leg cramps or muscle spasms are when you feel a lightness and a knotted sensation in the legs, lasting from a few seconds to even minutes. While leg cramps are not dangerous, they can cause much pain.
What Causes of Leg Cramps at Night?
What causes muscle spasms? Even today, experts don’t know the actual cause that leads to leg cramps. But one of the reasons that cause it is due to the nerve sending wrong signals to the brain. What else? Let’s find out.
- Medications: A few medicines, such as diuretics, can lead to leg cramps. This is because they affect the electrolyte levels in the body.
- Pregnancy: Leg cramps at night during pregnancy are common symptoms during the second and third trimesters. It is believed that it is due to the reduced calcium levels in the body.
- Dehydration: When you don’t consume enough fluids throughout the day or suffer from diarrhoea or loose motions, it can lead to dehydration, and this can cause muscle cramps.
- Standing for Extended Periods: When you stand for long durations, it can lead to possible build-up of fluids in the veins, leading to leg cramps.
- Exercise: Leg cramps at night after cycling or an intense exercise are known as exercise-associated muscle cramps and can be intense and painful.
- Alcohol: Research suggests that drinking alcohol at least once a week can put you at risk of leg cramps.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: When people lead a sedentary lifestyle, their muscles may be shorter, making them more prone to leg cramps.
- Improper sitting position: Sitting on crossed legs or with pointed toes leads to short calf muscles and could lead to cramping.
- Abnormal nerve activity: Sometimes, abnormal nerve activity can lead to leg cramps.
Who Gets Leg Cramps?
People who are at risk of leg cramps are;
Age: As you age, you tend to lose muscle mass, it can become overstressed, leading to leg cramps. It can also cause leg cramps at night when stretching.
Dehydration: Athletes and people who don’t replenish themselves with fluid can experience leg cramps.
Medical Conditions: Leg cramps at night? Diabetes can be the reason why. Nerve, liver, and thyroid disorders can also lead to leg cramps.
How Long Do Leg Cramps Last?
Leg cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to 10 minutes. However, the thigh muscle cramps tend to last the longest. During a cramping episode, the muscles become tight and painful, and even the toes and feet become stiff. In fact, sometimes after the cramps have passed, there are chances that you might experience tenderness and pain.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps vs. Restless Legs Syndrome
Cramps and restless leg syndrome are not the same. When you experience nocturnal leg cramps, your muscles tend to feel tight and knotted, like they have shifted their position and can cause severe pain. And restless leg syndrome is when you experience an uncontrollable urge to move your legs because you go through an uncomfortable sensation.
Nocturnal Leg Cramp Diagnosis
If you experience severe leg cramps and it has become a recurrent problem, make sure you visit your doctor. Sometimes, it can be a symptom of some other underlying medical condition. To diagnose leg cramps, your doctor will first ask you about the symptoms and your medical history and may do a physical exam before proceeding with leg cramps at night treatment.
How to Reduce Leg Cramps at Night?
Some of the tips that can help reduce leg cramps at night include;
Hydration: Ensure you are always hydrated and drink about six to eight glasses of water every night.
Stretching: Always stretch your muscles before and after exercise.
Baths: You can soak in hot water with or without Epsom salt to curb your leg cramps, as it can provide immediate relief.
Massage: A gentle massage helps you combat severe leg cramps.
Heel Walking: You can stretch your legs by walking on your heels to prevent leg cramps.
When to See a Doctor?
You must see a doctor if your leg cramps have become frequent and unbearable. Also, visit your doctor if you experience the following symptoms.
- Cramps in other parts of the body and not just legs
- Too much pain
- Numbness or swelling
- Changes in skin colour
- Sleep disruptions due to leg cramps
Leg cramps are usually not severe and occur once in a while. However, it can lead to extreme pain and also disturb your sleep. Therefore, take the recommended preventive measures and talk to your doctor if the frequency increases.
What is your body lacking when you have leg cramps?
If potassium, calcium or magnesium levels are low, it can lead to cramps.
What drink stops leg cramps?
Drinking around 2-3 ounces of tonic water prevents leg cramps.
When should I be concerned about leg cramps?
If you get cramps frequently, you should be concerned about it and talk to your doctor.
Does eating bananas prevent leg cramps?
Bananas are a good source of potassium and can also offer little magnesium and calcium. Therefore, it can be good for leg cramps.
What is the best home remedy for leg cramps?
A warm towel or a heating pad is one of the best remedies for leg cramps.
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