The pain that occurs during the night while sleeping is named legs cramp or nocturnal leg cramps. The pain can cause to wake up in the middle of the night, and the reason would be prolonged hours of inactivity. Commonly the pain occurs in the area in the calf, but can be also in the thighs and feet. The duration of the pain is different sometimes can last few seconds and sometimes more even couple minutes. After the leg cramp passes, muscle soreness may linger for the rest of the night or even until the following day. Both men and women can experience leg cramps and they occur more commonly in adults over the age of 45.
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.