Nocturnal leg cramps affect the legs during night time. In most cases, the cramps can cause awakenings from sleep but might also arise while awake at night during periods of inactivity.
The cramps usually occur in the calf muscles but also in the feet or thighs. It is important to note that nocturnal leg cramps can be quite painful and cause the muscles to feel tight or knotted. The symptoms can last for several seconds up to several minutes. In some cases, muscle soreness might arise after the cramps settle.
The cramps are likely to occur among adults over 50 years of age but also occur among younger adults and children. Take note that both women and men are equally affected.
What are the causes?
The usual cause of nocturnal leg cramps is oftentimes unknown but some cases are linked to:
- Incorrect sitting position
- Being seated for extended periods of time
- Standing or working on hard or concrete floors
- Overexertion of the muscles
The cramping is also associated to some medical ailments and even medications such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Structural conditions
- Neuromuscular and endocrine disorders
- Statins, diuretics and beta agonists
- Make sure that the body is properly hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily
- Stretch the leg muscles gently before going to sleep
- Use properly fitting shoes
- Keep blankets and sheets slack around the feet so that the toes are not distorted
- Ride a stationary bike for a few minutes before going to bed
What should I do if cramps arise?
Always bear in mind that forceful stretching of the affected muscle is usually an effective way to relieving the cramps. You might be able to alleviate the cramping by walking around, massaging the leg or jiggling the leg.
A warm shower or bath might be beneficial as well. In addition, the application of ice can also provide relief.