Night leg cramps also called nocturnal leg cramps, are painful, involuntary spasms, aching or contractions of muscles in your legs.
In most cases, night leg cramps involve your calf muscles, but muscles in your feet or thighs may cramp as well. They often strike just as you’re falling asleep or waking up. Most of the time, night leg cramps occur for no known reason, and they’re usually harmless. In general, night leg cramps are likely to be related to muscle fatigue and nerve problems.
The risk of having night leg cramps increases with age. Pregnant women also have a higher likelihood of experiencing night leg cramps.
In rare situations, dehydration, prolonged sitting, or not getting enough potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can be associated with leg cramps. So can certain medications – including diuretics, beta blockers and other blood pressure drugs.
Sometimes, these cramps also may be related to an underlying metabolic condition, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or a parathyroid condition. Diabetes or other conditions that disrupt your metabolism can also cause muscle
How to Relieve Leg Cramps?
The pain caused by leg cramps can vary in intensity and last from just a few seconds to 15 minutes or more. To get relief, gently rubbing a cramped muscle can help it relax. Stretching also can ease a spasm. If you’re in too much pain to stand up, straighten your leg and flex the top of your foot toward your head.
Applying cold or heat also can offer some relief. To relax tense muscles, apply ice or a cold pack directly to the area where you feel cramping. Applying heat with a warm towel or heating pad, or by taking a hot bath or shower, also can make you
feel better by reducing muscle pain or tenderness.
Although night leg cramps can take you by surprise, prevention is possible. These steps can help:
Staying hydrated — drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can keep you from becoming dehydrated. It can also help your muscles contract and relax more
Stretching before bed — if you have night leg cramps, it’s a good idea to stretch before turning in for the night.
Doing light exercise — riding a stationary bike for a few minutes before bedtime may help prevent cramps while you’re sleeping.
Choosing the right shoes — wearing shoes that have proper support may help prevent leg cramps.
Un-tucking the covers — loosen or un-tuck the bed-sheets and other covers at the foot of your bed.
However, if these self-care strategies aren’t keeping cramps at bay, if they occur regularly and cause severe discomfort, see your doctor. This is particularly true if leg cramps are interfering with your sleep or you’re having muscle weakness, swelling, numbness or pain that lingers or continues to come back.
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