Scientists Explain Why Your Legs Cramp At Night (And How to Fix It)

Waking up in the middle of the night with a terrible cramping isn’t the most ideal thing, right? Cramps are usually painful, and can strike at any moment. However, nighttime leg cramps are the worst.

Causes of muscle cramps

Researchers are still looking for the main cause of cramps. Health experts have a special name for this condition. Idiopathic leg cramps.

Cramps can also occur as a result of:

  • Excessive exercise
  • Pregnancy (later stages)

Cramps may indicate an underlying problem, and we are usually unaware of it. Here are some conditions:

1. Dehydration

When your body lacks fluids, your salt levels become depleted, and this contracts the muscles in your legs. Severe diarrhea and vomiting may also be a cause.

2. Lack of potassium and other minerals such as magnesium.

3. Medical conditions such as kidney disease, thyroid disease and liver issues and multiple sclerosis.

4. Peripheral arterial disease and other issues with the cardiovascular system.

5. Infections and toxins (mercury, lead and other toxins)

Cramps are listed as side effects of some medication.

  • Diuretics

Medications to lower high cholesterol (statins)

  • Some anti-psychotic drugs
  • Birth control pills
  • Steroids

Ideal treatment

You can treat your cramps naturally without taking medication:

  1. Stretch and massage

Bend your foot at the ankle area, and point your toes towards your shin. This may cause pain at the beginning, but don’t worry, the pain will disappear.

  1. Enjoy a warm shower.
  2. Ice packs relieve pain.
  3. Jiggle your painful leg and walk on your heels.

Painkillers don’t have immediate effect, so you should take paracetamol to handle the tenderness in the next 24 hours.

Prevent muscle cramps

If you think your condition is caused by medication, consult your doctor to use alternatives.

Check your symptoms to exclude underlying conditions.

Make sure you eat enough foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Supplements are also an option.

Stretch your calf muscles

Stretch your affected leg 3 times a day. Five-minute sessions are enough for your condition. Stretch before and after every exercise, and finish the last session before bedtime. You will notice the first results within a few weeks. Here are some instructions:

  • Stand 60-90 cm from the wall.
  • Stick the soles of your feet to the floor, and lean your body towards your support (wall).
  • Hold in this position for 20-40 seconds.
  • Relax the muscles and do another round.

Consult your doctor

You should definitely consult your doctor in the following cases:

  • Severe cramps
  • Exposure to lead
  • Muscle weakness
  • Your muscles cause insomnia

Don’t mistake nighttime leg cramps for restless leg syndrome (RLS). RLS is a condition in which sufferers deal with unpleasant feelings, and an urge to move your legs. Pain isn’t the main symptom. However, this syndrome may be the cause of nighttime cramps.



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