Do You Have Random Leg Cramps At Night? Read This To Find Out Why And How To Fix It

As per information that has been provided by the Cleveland Clinic, the Nocturnal Leg Cramps (NLC) that you experience are actually pains that occur in your legs which are significant enough to wake you up from sleep at night. NLC mostly arises when the subject is sleeping but there are also sometimes wherein it gets triggered during periods of prolonged inactivity and idleness. NLC is a condition that mostly targets muscles in the calf but it can also spread as far as the feet and thighs. NLC can be particularly painful as they imitate tightening and knotting sensations within the large muscles of the leg. Mild instances of NLC can last for around a few seconds but the more severe cases can last up to several minutes. Systematic cramps often occur within adults over the age of 50 but they may also inflict younger adults and even children. It’s also a condition that knows no sexual bounds. It can afflict both men and women equally.

1. Difference between Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and NLC

Night leg cramps, also known as nocturnal leg cramps (NLC), are very painful and involuntary spasms or contractions of the muscles in a person’s legs. Usually, they occur whenever the person is in bed. NLC shouldn’t be taken to be the same thing as RLS or restless leg syndrome. RLS is more of a condition that creates a mild nagging discomfort within the leg whereas NLC is a more profound and substantial level of pain. RLS is also different from NLC in the sense that it can be relieved through movement. NLC is only ever usually relieved through stretching and maybe some light massaging.

2. What causes the legs to cramp at night?

There is no definitive cause for NLC. However, there are certain conditions and lifestyle habits which are shown to be present in the lives of those who are afflicted with NLC. Here are a few of them:

  • Prolonged instances of sitting.
  • A prolonged time of standing or working on concrete floors.
  • Over-working of the leg muscles.
  • Poor posture.
  • Prolonged slouching while in a seated position.

There are also some studies that suggest that pregnancies can also increase the likelihood of NLC.

These are some medical conditions that have also shown some signs of correlation with NLC:

  • Alcoholism
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte abnormalities
  • Endocrine disorders and anomalies
  • Kidney failure
  • Metabolic issues
  • Neuromuscular diseases (myopathy, neuropathy, motor neuron disease, etc.)
  • Structural abnormalities
  • Parkinson’s Disease

As per the data from the Mayo Clinic, if your legs experience cramps on a frequent basis, it might be related to some form of muscle fatigue or nerve problems. There are also certain medications that, when used over a prolonged period of time, can increase the risk of developing NLC.

3. The Prevention of NLC

Dehydration has actually shown itself to be one of the leading causes of cramps. This is especially true for people who claim that their legs cramp at night. And the thing about dehydration is that it’s completely preventable. You should always make it a habit of drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day even when you’re not doing anything that is physically taxing. However, you shouldn’t be drinking too much water just before you go to bed because that might trigger the urge for you to go to the bathroom while you’re sleeping. And that can interrupt your slumber in a less than pleasant manner.

You should also get into the habit of stretching your muscles a few minutes before you go to sleep. This is a good way to relax your muscles and prime yourself for a good night’s sleep.  You might also want to loosen up your bed covers that would restrict your leg’s movements while you’re in a lying down position.

4. How to relieve your leg cramps

The chances are significantly high that in spite of  your best efforts, nightly leg cramps might still interrupt your slumber. Whenever that’s the case, it’s always best that you have a few ideas on how you can help relieve the stress on your muscles should the cramps ever occur. Here are a few things that you can try:

  • Take a brief shower or bath with warm water.
  • Stand up and walk around for a little bit while you try to jiggle the affected leg.
  • Massage the affected area with your hands and put an ice pack on it.
  • Elevated the leg with cramps and flex the foot upwards with your toes pointed towards your head.
  • Apply heat to the muscles that might be feeling tight.
  • Hold the leg in a stretched position until the cramping goes away.
  • Compress the affected areas with ice packs.
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