I woke up this morning with my ankle in an extended position and aching. I had a nighttime leg cramp. It didn’t hurt too much and I know that sometimes leg cramps occur when you are magnesium deficient, but I decided to do a bit of research today and see if I could learn more about natural cures for leg cramps, so I could stop nighttime leg cramps once and for all!
Let’s dive in and learn more about nighttime (or nocturnal) leg cramps!
What are nocturnal leg cramps?
Nocturnal leg cramps are the pains that you feel in your legs during the night. They can often wake you up from sleep, but they may also occur while awake at night during periods of inactivity. Night time leg cramps mostly happen in the calf muscles, but they can also occur in the thighs or feet. They can be quite painful and cause the muscles to feel tight or knotted. The cramps may last from several seconds to several minutes. There also may be muscle soreness after the cramp goes away.
Who Gets Nocturnal Leg Cramps?
Nocturnal leg cramps are common in adults over age 50, but they may also occur in younger adults and children. Men and women are equally affected by them. There might also be muscle soreness after the cramp goes away. Nocturnal leg cramps are more common in adults over age 50, but they also do occur in younger adults and children. Both men and women seem to be equally affected.
Causes of Leg Cramps at Night
The specific cause of nocturnal leg cramps is unknown. It can be different for many people. It is associated with the following conditions:
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Over-exertion of the muscles
- Standing or working on concrete floors
- Sitting improperly
Some medical conditions are associated with leg cramps. These include the following:
- Magnesium Deficiencies
- electrolyte imbalances
- Parkinson’s disease
- Neuromuscular disorders (neuropathy, myopathy, motor neuron disease)
- Structural disorders (flat feet)
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hypothyroidism)
- Diuretics, statins, beta agonists
How to Get Relief From Night Time Leg Cramps
In the majority of cases, nighttime leg cramps are harmless. They can be relieved and even prevented with simple stretching and other self-care measures and remedies. However, if you are experiencing nocturnal leg cramps regularly and they cause significant discomfort, please see your doctor, especially if the leg cramps are interfering with your sleep patterns or you are having muscle weakness, swelling, numbness or pain that lingers and continues to return.
While more people who are middle age and older get leg cramps, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Many times these cramps occur for no known reason. Therefore, it can be difficult to get rid of them.
There are three main things that you may want to try to eliminate a nocturnal leg cramp:
- Stretch it out
- Increase magnesium
If it is your calf muscle that cramps up in the middle of the night, stand up and put weight on the affected leg in order to push the heel to the floor. This will stretch out the muscle.
Another stretch that is helpful is to put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly. This decreases the tension in the calf as that muscle stretches out and the opposing muscles contract.
If you are sitting or lying down with your leg straight out, pull the top of your foot towards your head.
For cramps in the quadriceps (thighs), you can hold onto a chair to steady yourself and pull your foot back towards your buttock. This will stretch out the quadriceps.
Other Remedies to Try
Massaging the muscle may give you relief. Increasing the blood flow to the area through heat or ice can improve your symptoms of cramps as well. You may also want to try taking an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt is high in magnesium and can help to correct a deficiency when you soak in it.
Can I Prevent Them?
Preventing leg cramps before they start is one of the best things that you can do. Prevention starts with eating more foods that are high in vitamins, magnesium and calcium. Staying well-hydrated will help to prevent nocturnal leg cramps. Additionally, you’ll want to create a daily stretching routine for yourself and ensure that you are exercising daily.