Leg cramps happen because of a sudden contraction of your feet or leg muscles. You may feel it at irregular intervals, and it can lead to secondary insomnia. This is when you have trouble sleeping due to a medical condition or it is disrupting daily activities.
Here’s what causes leg cramps at night and what you can do to reduce it.
What Causes Leg Cramps at Night?
Several factors have been associated with an increased risk of the problem, including:
- Being over 50 years of age
- Overexertion due to exercise
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Chronic dehydration
- Prolonged sitting with crossed legs
- Sleeping under tight bed covers that cause your toes to point downward
- Medication use: Diuretics, anti-inflammatories, and statins
- Structural disorders: Flat feet or other ankle or feet malformations
- Diseases: Diabetes, osteoarthritis, liver cirrhosis, Parkinson’s disease, vascular diseases, hypo- and hyperthyroidism
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) also relates high-intensity physical activities and incorrect sleeping positions to the condition’s onset.
- Kidney failure: Cramps that are accompanied by metabolic signs or symptoms
- Intermittent claudication: A deep, aching pain that feels like cramping, usually happens during exercise
- Peripheral neuropathy: Numbness, pain, and a tingling sensation in the affected area that’s accompanied by secondary cramps
- Restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder: Non-painful but repetitive leg movements that disrupt your sleep
- Myositis, myalgias, Baker’s cysts, and deep vein thrombosis: Deep, aching pain accompanied by physical weakness
Steps to Stop Leg Cramps at Night
You can take several steps to relieve leg cramps, which include stretches, massage, and compression.
Feel a tug in your calf muscles while sleeping? Sit up or stand immediately, straighten your leg, and lift your foot with your toes pointed towards your shin.
If you have the flexibility, reach for your toes and pull them towards you.
How to stretch to prevent your calves from cramping
Stand approximately three feet from a wall and lean forward. Reach out to touch the wall with outstretched arms, keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Count to five, stop, and repeat the movement for five minutes. Do this a maximum of three times daily.
Massage your legs
Use your hands or a foam roller to massage your legs and soothe any discomfort. Elevate your feet as soon as the symptoms subside.
Stand and walk
Stand up, pressing your feet against the floor. Walk around the space while wiggling your feet and toes.
Hot or cold compression
Unsure of whether to use a hot or cold compress for your leg cramps? Do both! Ideally, you can use ice wrapped in a towel to ease the pain while waiting for the cramp to subside.
Replace the ice with a heating pad or take a warm bath. Doing this will help increase blood flow to your legs.
Herbal foot bath
According to Physician Yoong, a herbal foot bath can reduce leg cramps at night by promoting better blood circulation, strengthening the tendons, and expelling Wind. A few of the medicinal ingredients that you can include in the bath are:
- Dried papaya (mu gua gan, 木瓜干)
- Peach seeds (tao ren, 桃仁)
- Rehmannia root (shu di huang, 熟地黄)
- Common club moss (shen jin cao, 伸筋草)
- Mulberry mistletoe stem (sang ji sheng, 桑寄生)
- White peony root (bai shao, 白芍)
As an alternative to herbal medication, acupressure massages encourage better circulation, loosen the tendons, alleviate cramps, and calm pain. Some of the
- Yin men (BL37, 殷门)
- Wei yang (BL39, 委阳)
- Wei zhong (BL40, 委中)
- Cheng jin (BL56, 承筋)
- Cheng shan (BL57, 承山)
Prescription medication and health supplements
A clinical healthcare provider will prescribe different medications for nocturnal leg cramps such as carisoprodol, diltiazem, and verapamil.
If you’re pregnant, magnesium can potentially suppress leg cramps. Multi-vitamin and sodium supplements can also be beneficial. However, use sodium supplements with caution as you could be at risk of blood pressure spikes.
Untreated leg cramps at night may disrupt your sleep, making you feel tired, be less productive and increase your risk of illness. Try combining the tips above with capsules that contain
If you’ve found this article has helped with your leg cramps, be sure to share it with your loved ones.
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