Many people suffer from nocturnal leg cramps. As the name suggests, the pain occurs in your legs when you are sleeping and keep you awake. They often occur because you spend long inactive hours.

They usually take place in the calves, but the pain can also extend to the feet and thighs. And the pain could last for anything as short as a few seconds to half an hour.

Even when the leg cramp has passed, you can feel soreness throughout the night. You may even have the soreness the next day. These leg cramps can occur in both men and women, but the occurrence is more common in those over 50.

Difference Between Nocturnal Leg Cramps & Restless Leg Syndrome

Nocturnal leg cramps are often confused to be restless leg syndrome (RLS) because both occur when you are sleeping. But there are so many differences between the two.

  • There is no cramping or pain associated with RLS.
  • RLS gives a feeling of uneasiness or crawling in the legs.
  • You can get relief in RLS by moving your feet. On the other hand, you need to stretch your feet to get relief in nocturnal leg cramps.
  • While RLS is associated with a desire to move your legs, nocturnal leg cramps force you to keep your legs stationary.

What Causes Nocturnal Leg Cramps

The precise causes behind these types of leg cramps have not yet been established.

However, the likely causes and risk factors are as following:

  • If you spend too much time sitting.
  • Exerting too much force with the leg muscles.
  • Sitting in the wrong posture.
  • Standing on concrete floors.

Even certain conditions can increase the risk of these types of cramps:

-Dehydration.
-Drinking excess alcohol.
-Pregnancy.
-Parkinson’s disease.
-Endocrine problems like diabetes.
-Structural problems like flat feet.
-Neuromuscular disorders.
-Use of diuretics, beta agonists and statins.

How to Treat & Prevent Nocturnal Leg Cramps?

The kind of effective treatment for your nocturnal leg cramps will depend on the risk factors or cause involved. If you are suffering from it because of dehydration, make sure to remain properly hydrated. Some of the other treatments are as following:

  • If you feel tightness in the muscles, you should take a warm and relaxing bath before going to bed.
  • If you suffer consistently from it, start taking horse chestnut. It will help in increasing blood flow.
  • Apply heating pad on the calves or other areas where you feel the cramps.
  • Deficiency of potassium and magnesium can also cause muscle cramps. So you should take supplementation to eliminate these deficiencies.
  • Loosen the tight muscles using acupuncture.
  • Go swimming and engage in water exercises for building leg muscles.
  • Perform stretching exercises before going to bed.
  • Make sure to always wear shoes which are ergonomically designed. Don’t wear high heels.

How to Get Instant Relief from Cramps?

People can suffer from nocturnal muscle cramp attacks that can make them feel paralyzed. If this happens to you, you should follow these tips:

  • Extend the legs in front and flex them at the ankles. The toes will point in the direction of the knees. Tug on the feet to get a great stretch.
  • Rise up gradually and walk slowly, making sure to shake your legs. This will help in improving blood flow.
  • Massage the calves in circular motion to get relief from the cramps.
  • Make sure that the sheets/blankets are not tight and don’t contract your muscles.
  • You can take 1 tbsp of yellow mustard to get relief from the uneasiness.

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