People that experience cramps know that they are real nightmare especially if it wakes you up in the middle of the night. Nocturnal leg cramps actually are involuntary contractions on the calf muscles that occur suddenly during the night or when you are at rest.
These contractions can occur in the feet or any other muscles on the body.
Some of the cramps last for few seconds, and some last for several minutes. Also there are cramps that are more intense in pain, which cause the muscles to remain sore for longer period of time.
Cramps could affect every person regardless of their age, but most affected are middle-aged people or older. People that exercise at night are mainly affected. The main cause for nocturnal leg cramps is unclear there are different factors that could contribute the painful problem.
Here are some of the main causes:
If your body is dehydrated the function of the body and the mind could be interrupted. Dehydration also interrupts the function of the muscles. The muscle tissues are actually consistent of 75% of water which helps them contract and relax. In case you are not hydrating the body enough during the day it could result with leg cramps at night. Water is also important for the blood circulation and the circulation of nutrients through the body. Lack of water in the body will lead to deprivation of the essential nutrients, which results with imbalance of electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
- Nutritional deficiency
If you are experiencing imbalance of mineral electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium it will lead to cramps. These minerals are very important for the proper function of the muscles, but also they are responsible for both nerve and muscle contractions. Sodium is actually essential for keeping the balance of fluids in the body, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses.
Potassium is important for sending electrical impulses in the muscles and nerves, and it works along with sodium and chloride. Calcium is also important for generating nerve impulses that lead to muscle contraction, whereas magnesium is great for stabilizing ATP.
In case of deficiency of these minerals, you are more likely to experience cramps and other muscle issues. In order to avoid you should consume B12 vitamin.
- Overexertion or prolonged standing
In case you are standing for longer period of time, or your shoes aren’t properly fitting you might experience muscle fatigue or overexertion. Also if you wear high heels very often you might experience the same problems. All of these situations actually lead to muscle cramps during night.
Study conducted in 2012 found that prolonged standing at work will increase the risk of varicose veins, as well as leg cramps during the night. If you want to prevent these problems you should try to rest frequently in case of standing for prolonged time.
On the other hand, if you are sitting improperly it might lead to nocturnal leg cramps.
Pregnant women often get leg cramps during night especially in the second trimester of their pregnancy, and usually this happens when she is in the second trimester.
The cramps could be different in their intensity, and could occur as a result of fatigue or increased pressure of the uterus on the nerves. Also it could be caused by poor blood circulation in the legs, which is often a result of the pressure of the baby on blood vessels.
If the thyroid hormones are producing low level of hormones it could lead to muscle weakness and cramps of the legs during night. These hormones actually are responsible for absorption and utilization of calcium. If the body is deficient in calcium it could lead to muscle weakness, cramps, numbness, and pain.
Also if you are having low thyroid hormones it could affect the metabolism. The metabolism is very important for the level of energy and the health of the muscles. If you have reduced production of thyroid hormones it could also lead to inflammation and muscle cramps and pain.
- Uncontrolled diabetes
Diabetes is another cause for leg cramps because elevated blood sugar could lead to dehydration and excessive urination. This leads to leg cramps at night, and if you are experiencing this as a result of diabetes you should consult your doctor.
- Alcohol abuse
If you are consuming lots of alcohol it could lead to damage of the peripheral nerves, but also it could cause alcohol neuropathy. These conditions and damages lead to leg pain and muscle cramps at night. Also, abusing alcohol will lead to diuretic effect which could cause dehydration. On the other hand, abuse of alcohol lead to increased lactic acid in the body which again is related to muscle cramps.
- Certain medications
Medications such as cholesterol-lowering agents and diuretic could lead to cramps. Antipsychotic, birth control pills, and steroids can cause serious muscle cramps. In case you notice that leg cramps begin right after you have started the medications make sure that you consult the doctor.
Here are some additional tips in regards to preventing leg cramps:
- Make sure that you drink enough water
- Drink sport drinks that contain electrolytes
- Don’t consume alcohol, coffee, and soda beverages
- In case of leg cramp make sure that you massage the muscle for 10-15minutes
- You should stretch the leg muscles before you go to bed
- Ride your bike for 10 minutes
- Keep the blankets and sheets loose around your feet
- Increase the consumption of magnesium
- You should regularly exercise
- Consume enough foods that contain potassium
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