The leg cramp causes the muscle soreness the rest of the night or continues the following day. Both women and men are prone to leg cramps but they mostly occur in adults over the age of 50.
Leg Cramps at Night vs Restless Leg Syndrome
Both pains, nocturnal leg cramps and restless leg syndrome (RLS) occur during the resting (sleeping) hours which is the only similarity between the two conditions.
The differences between leg cramps at night and restless leg syndrome are:
- While nocturnal leg cramps do cause pain or cramping, RLS does not
- RLS is more of a crawling feeling or discomfort in your legs.
- The nocturnal leg cramps often prevent movement, while RLS causes the desire to move the legs.
- When you experience RLS it is recommended to move the leg, while moving the leg in nocturnal leg cramps does not, so stretching is required.
Causes and Risk Factors of Leg Cramps at Night
As the exact cause of nocturnal leg cramps is often unknown, we will focus on the potential causes and risk factors of nightly leg cramps, such as:
- Sitting longer than usual
- Working and standing or on concrete floors
- Overexertion of the muscles in the leg
- The improperly sitting
Medical conditions, too, can contribute to nocturnal leg cramps, such as:
- Neuromuscular disorders
- Structural disorders like flat feet
- Parkinson’s disease
- Diuretics, statins, beta agonists
- Diabetes and other endocrine disorders.
Prevention and Treatment for Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Treatment for nocturnal leg cramps is linked with the cause of it. For example, if the dehydration is a cause of your nocturnal leg cramps, you should stay well hydrated throughout the day.
Some other treatment and preventative methods:
- Use “horse chestnut”, which increases blood flow to the legs.
- Prior to sleep: take a relaxing, warm bath, which eases any muscle tightness.
- A heating pad to the affected area will be of great help.
- Try acupuncture treatment as it loosens tight leg muscles.
- Check your status of magnesium or potassium – as deficiencies in both minerals are linked to muscle cramping.
- Stretching legs prior to bed are required.
- Take part in water exercises to build leg muscles.
- Wear ergonomic shoes avoiding high heels.
What to Do When Cramps Occur?
Sometimes nocturnal muscle cramp strikes can nearly leave you paralyzed. An attack can properly handle, which will offer you relief and leave you less sore afterwards.
Here are some tips:
– Sitting on the floor extend both legs out in front of you, then flex your feet at the ankles and point your toes toward your knees
– Get up slowly and walk around a bit
– Shake your legs, which improves blood flow.
– Gently massage the area in a circular motion.
– Use comfortable blankets and sheets
– Take a tablespoon of yellow mustard to relieve discomfort.