How to Prevent Leg Cramps at Night
You've just had a long and hard, day at work or at the gym. You lay down to get some sleep, tossing and turning, finally able to doze off. Suddenly, completely out of nowhere, you feel a sharp, painful stiffness, in your leg, jolting you out of sleep. You try to wait it out. You try to stretch it out. The relief is only temporary.
Then, after what seems like an eternity, your leg muscle finally begins to relax. You try to go back to sleep, only to wake up groggy, tired, and frustrated! Sound Familiar?
You're probably suffering from a common condition known as Nocturnal leg cramps.
Although it most commonly affects those aged 50 and older, this is a condition that affects people of all ages, even children aged 12 and younger.
Leg cramps at night are not fun. The good news is, there are specific measures you can take to prevent this from happening as often as they do now.
What do leg cramps at night mean?
Nocturnal leg cramps occur in the lower legs while sleeping. Since these types of leg cramps occur only at night, they often cause a disruption to your sleep pattern, affecting your focus and alertness the following day. You wake up groggy, unable to meet the day’s activities with vitality, which is especially true if you live an active lifestyle.
Cramps in the affected muscle can range from mild aches to severe spasms.
Often the pain of leg cramps is felt along the side of the shin, up through the calf, and into the inner and outer thigh. In some cases even the hamstrings, which can be especially painful. Leg cramps can be mild and cause only slight discomfort, or they can be severe and last for several minutes.
Typically the intensity of leg cramp pain is directly related to how active the muscles are; if they are contracted, it will hurt more than if they are completely relaxed.
This pain is common in those who are over 50 years of age and occurs mostly in the calf muscles that are closest to the feet. The pain can be so strong that it may awaken the sleeper.
Though the exact cause is often unknown, whenever leg cramps strike, two things seem to be involved: nerves and blood flow.
The nerves may become overactive, causing the muscles they supply to suddenly contract. Blood flow, on the other hand, may become restricted during sleep when inactive muscles do not require as much blood flow.
Diagnosing Nocturnal leg cramps is even more tricky at times because it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint the affected muscle. The calf muscle is reportedly the most afflicted area, but as mentioned before, leg cramps can strike any part of the body.
What causes Nocturnal Leg Cramps or Muscle Cramps?
Before we discuss preventing leg cramps at night, it's essential to go over the common causes of this painful, disruptive condition.
There are many different theories about what causes leg cramps to occur. One theory states that it may be due to stress and muscle tension pulling on the nerves in your lower extremities.
Another theory states that leg cramps could be caused by low calcium, magnesium, or potassium levels in the body.
There have even been cases of leg cramps that occur for no apparent reason.
The best way to determine what may be causing your Nocturnal leg cramping is to discuss this with a doctor or medical professional.
Leg cramps at night, also called Nocturnal leg cramps (NLC) are sudden, painful contractions of the calf muscles or other leg muscles during sleep. They can be felt in either or both legs, and they commonly occur during the later stages of sleep.
Although most people don't suffer from Nocturnal leg cramping every night or even regularly, for those that do, it's one of the most frequent symptoms of several health-related issues. And it also occurs more frequently as a person ages.
When You Need to Talk to a Doctor
This frequently debilitating condition is often associated with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, alcoholism, renal diseases (kidney), osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
Many neuromuscular degenerative diseases may cause you to have leg cramps, so there are a wide array of causes for abnormal nerve activity.
For this article, we will stay away from those causes that have underlying medical conditions, or a more serious medical condition. For these symptoms, your family physician may prescribe an over the counter painkiller, or muscle relaxants.
Depending on your risk factors, they may need to refer you to an internal medicine doctor, who can test you for peripheral neuropathy, idiopathic leg cramps, coronary artery disease, or even kidney failure.
If you're older and you are often having long periods of prolonged standing, or have flat feet, you may need supportive shoes, for which a Chiropractor may be beneficial for you to visit.
Stacking the Deck in your favor to Eliminate Leg Cramps
For those living an athletic lifestyle, or on a Keto diet, or simply just dealing with the regular aches and pains of life, you can drastically improve your health by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Though there's no way to eliminate the possibility of these nighttime leg cramps if you don't take care of yourself.
What you eat, how much you sleep, and how physically active you are all specific factors that can help in the prevention of nocturnal leg cramps, muscle cramps, in your calf muscles, thighs, or hamstrings.
Let's take a look at a few of the most common reasons why people think they are experiencing nocturnal leg cramps, daytime leg cramps, or seemingly idiopathic leg cramps.
- Lack of hydration
- Muscular overuse (widespread among athletes)
- Inactivity for long periods of time
- Dietary deficiencies and heredity
Is Nighttime Leg Cramps caused by Lack of Hydration?
Many people believe the cause of nocturnal leg cramps could be dehydration. The belief is that you are dehydrated, you may be more prone to experience, tight muscles, and leg cramps on an ongoing basis . Leg cramps happen when your muscles are unable to contract and expand efficiently.
Your muscles need electrolytes to function properly.
Muscle spasms often occur when the muscles don't have the necessary nutrients to function properly, and so you experience leg pain, varying from weak to intense pain, that feeling of sandpaper in your inner thigh or calf muscle.
What often happens is when the body sweats, you may be losing a high level of electrolytes, which your muscles need to expand and contract efficiently. So even if you are hydrated, but are not replacing these nutrients you may still experience cramps.
So we often think of hydration when we think of cramping, but it may not be hydration itself, but the loss of electrolytes in our sweat or a poor diet that leads to cramps.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps caused by Muscular Overuse
For those that want to take care of their health by staying active or live an athletic lifestyle, without taking proper measures to rest your body in between workouts, you run the risk of your muscles becoming tense, rigid, and stiff. Over time, you may suddenly start to feel leg cramps, which is also true if you haven't been doing any physical activity for an extended period of time.
Since muscles need time to heal, when you do something that overuses your leg muscles like running, physical exercise, or sudden jerking movements, without proper warmups, you run the risk of experiencing leg cramps.
If you've been physically active recently, have spent an extended amount of time on your feet, or experience a physical injury that causes trauma to the muscles, you are also at risk of experiencing leg cramps.
If I am Inactive, why am I getting Leg Cramps?
For those that have been inactive or physically inactive for an extended period of time, or have been on a weight loss program, you may have lost a bit of muscle. Even if you aren't frequently physically active, you can have sudden leg cramps, since the muscle fibers in your legs have become weaker and arent' use to frequent contractions.
Your muscles may feel overworked even if you think they're not!
To your muscles, they are being overworked, not because you are doing strenuous activity, but because they lack physical conditioning. If your muscles become still and you move in a way that you've not used, it's possible to have leg cramps as a result.
If you've recently taken up exercising or physical activity, then you are also at risk of experiencing leg cramps. When you first begin to exercise, your muscle fibers are contracting and moving in new ways.
If the muscles are not warmed up properly or aren't given enough time to rest, then it is possible that you may contract a cramp during nighttime hours.
Regular activity, but not overactivity is essential for proper circulation, which allows all the nutrients your body absorbs from your diet to reach all 650 muscles in your body. A poor diet coupled with a lack of exercise may only make matters worse.
What vitamin deficiencies cause leg cramps at night?
If your diet lacks essential electrolytes such as magnesium or potassium, chances are you can expect to spend some nights with cramping pain in your legs.
When you don't get enough calcium through your daily intake, this can cause the muscles in your legs to contract and tighten.
To understand why this occurs, let's take a closer look at how calcium affects muscle contraction. Calcium plays a key role in the conduction of electrical impulses from the motor neurons that start or inhibit muscle contraction. When there is a low calcium level in your blood, then these activities also decrease, which can result in muscle cramps.
Calcium deficiency also leads to muscle spasms and stiffness across the body. Spasms are often seen during periods of insufficient intake of calcium.
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing cramps. Whatever those reasons are, let's look at ways that you can prevent leg cramps, day or night.
How do I stop Nighttime leg cramps?
As we mentioned before, while it is impossible to eliminate occasional cases of nocturnal leg cramps, the good news is that there are many steps you can take to drastically reduce their likelihood.
The following list includes several tips you can use that have been shown to help prevent these pesky and painful conditions from becoming a nightly occurrence:
Drink Plenty of Water with Electrolytes
Sounds simple enough, right? Well...the problem for many of us adults is that we often get so caught in our daily activities (work, family, etc.) that we simply forget to drink enough water as it is. So if you know you will be doing activities that will make you sweat, make sure you're drinking something to replenish your electrolytes as well
If you don't, you may realize that you've awoken in the middle of the night with a sharp, stiff cramp, and you can't go back to bed.
Still make sure you get your 8-10 servings a day to stay healthy
You should be drinking, on average, at least 8-10 glasses of water per day to help your body function at its best. So do your body a favor by keeping yourself hydrated with something like a 1/2 serving of Cramp Medic in your water bottle, as you workout so that your muscles stay loose and you keep muscle cramps at bay.
Stretch before bedtime
Stretching is an important habit, especially if you have an active lifestyle. By doing simple stretches like standing toe-to-heel and heel-to-toe, you can reduce muscle tension, and soothe tight muscles in your legs. This will help keep your muscles warm too, which is vital for maintaining a healthy blood flow and circulation, to prevent night leg cramps.
Additionally, keeping yourself loose and limber with regular stretching can also protect against the pain of nocturnal leg cramps. By doing these simple stretches before bed, you could very well be preventing those nighttime cramps from occurring altogether!
Stay loose and limber to help prevent leg cramps
When doing stretches, you want to hold each stretch for at least 1 minute per stretch. Splitting your stretches in 10 seconds more, as long as the time spent doing that particular stretch equals 1 minute cumulatively for the day, is just as good as doing a 1-minute stretch at one time.
If you experience leg cramps often, you may want to do shorter stretches of your calves, hamstrings, thighs, or glutes several times a day to keep them loose.
You can also engage in light aerobic activity, such as Tai Chi, to improve blood flow and circulation. If you have leg cramps on a regular basis and are not very active, it can be a simple way to get your blood supply moving. It may also help to lower blood pressure, those with restless legs syndrome, and help prevent a cramping episode from occurring, by helping you to keep your body flexible and pliable.
Avoid Overdoing it in the gym
Many people have trouble sleeping at night because their legs are unusually sore or tired. The problem occurs when you become overzealous and decide to take your exercise up to another level on a given day. Sometimes, the results manifest themselves in remarkable ways.
Other times...Not so much.
Make sure to maintain a proper balance when exercising to help avoid the unpleasantness of a leg cramp. Take a break for a few minutes and stretch out your legs if you start to feel a leg cramp coming on, or if a leg cramp strikes.
For those that experience restless legs syndrome and leg cramps as a result, strenuous exercise may likely exasperate your symptoms. If you're experience soreness, aches and pains, go easy, don't push yourself too hard.
Those with restless legs syndrome may also benefit from low-impact strength training. These may also be preferred for those that have been overworking their bodies, and need time to let their bodies heal and recuperate.
Don't Push Yourself Too Hard to Meet your Fitness Goals
Remember, when you're experiencing pain, cramping, and other symptoms, that's your body trying to tell you that something isn't right. Pushing through your pain to meet arbitrary fitness goals may not be the answer, and you may end up hurting yourself, which may hinder your fitness goals altogether.
Establishing a safe exercise routine, substituting strenuous activity for mild exercise, can prevent muscle fatigue beyond what's healthy, and help prevent charley horses or experience leg cramps during a workout, which would result in serious injury.
Imagine you went for a swim and had a charley horse while in the deep end of the pool, or out to sea on a surfboard! That situation could potentially be deadly!
In order to prevent cramps, try a warm bath after workouts, especially before bedtime, if you want to improve your odds of not experiencing nocturnal leg cramps while you rest.
Changes to your diet!
Leg cramps at night can also be caused by poor eating habits or sudden changes, such as switching to a Ketogenic diet. If your diet lacks potassium, calcium, or magnesium, your muscles may not be able to function at their peak performance. You may even find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep longer, which will be even more difficult when woken up by a leg cramp.
We've all heard this one before, right? Eat more fruits and vegetables! Try to eat at least 8 ounces of fresh fruits and vegetables each day to help improve your overall health and well-being. If you are diabetic and have peripheral neuropathy, you may want to speak to your doctor about how to can ensure you're getting enough nutrients in your diet, without increasing your sugar intake.
You may want to look into supplementation that doesn't contain any sugar, and so won't spike your blood sugar levels, such as Cramp Medic, which is also Keto-Friendly.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes...muscle cramps strike anyway. Again, you can try to relieve the cramps on your own with various methods. You can try to ease your leg cramps by gently massaging the muscle or doing some light stretches.
If the cramp is in your calf, pull your toes towards you to lengthen the tight muscle. Heat will also help to relax the muscle and relieve cramping. Take a hot shower or bath or apply a heating pad to the muscle.
Why Cramp Medic may be right for you!
Cramp Medic contains ingredients such as Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium Chloride, which are part of the electrolytic balance necessary for healthy muscle function.
The ingredients in Cramp Medic have been proven to be safe, and it's encouraged to take a double dose the first day to ensure you've replenished your body of essential vitamins and minerals.
When extreme muscle cramping hits, if taken on an empty stomach, Cramp Medic has an activation time of 15 seconds or more. What this translates to is a rapid relief of your leg cramps.
What's so powerful about Cramp Medic, is that it works best when taken as a preventative measure. Many have reported that they only need to take a couple serving a week, to stave off leg cramps for days or even weeks at a time.
This could mean fewer leg cramps if any at all, if you're taking Cramp Medic regularly, to ensure all 650 of your muscles are functioning at their best!
Give Cramp Medic a shot, and suffering from leg cramps at night could become a thing of the past.
Click the Link Below, Join the Movement and live Cramp Free!
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- Menche N, et al. How does the nervous system work?
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