A lot of us suffer from nocturnal leg cramps. As the name implies, these are leg cramps that happen at night during sleep. This affliction most often affects people who are inactive during daytime. Nocturnal leg cramps are usually concentrated on the calf region, but can also affect the feet area and the thighs too. The excruciating pain brought by cramping typically lasts a few seconds to a couple of minutes. Once the severe pain is gone, most individuals report slightly painful muscles for the remaining hours of the night. There are also cases when leg cramps become so severe that the pain lingers until the next day. Leg cramps happen in both men and women. In terms of age, 50 year olds and older usually experience nocturnal leg cramps more often than younger individuals.
The Difference Between Nocturnal Leg Crams and Restless Leg Syndrome
The only common feature that restless leg syndrome and nocturnal leg craps share is that they both happen at night. Other than that, you should bear in mind that these are actually two separate conditions:
– Restless leg syndrome or RLS causes you to feel sore or a distinct crawling feel of the legs
-RSL does not induce any amount of pain as that showcased by night cramps
– During RLS, movement of the legs provides relief, whereas moving your legs during a nocturnal leg cramp will only cause more pain. This is why it is advisable that you stretch the legs when suffering from nocturnal leg cramps
– When experiencing RLS your muscles tend to move for relief. On the other hand if you experience nocturnal leg cramps, you avoid movement as much as possible
The Causes of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
There is exact cause as to the development of leg cramps. Scientists however came out with a list of risk factors that are known to predispose people from it:
– Over-exertion of the leg muscles – Prolonged sitting over a long period of time – Inadequate sitting
– Standing over long hours or working on concrete floors
Leg cramps may also be due to illnesses and medications such as:
– neuromuscular disorders – alcoholism – pregnancy – Parkinson’s disease
– Structural disorders such as flat feet and complications of diabetes
Treatment and Preventive Measures for Leg Cramps
The proper management and treatment of leg cramps will only be possible if you can identify the reason as to why they happened in the first place. For instance, nocturnal leg cramps as a result of dehydration will be treated by increased water intake during the day. Below are some tried-and tested treatment and preventive measures that can relieve leg cramps:
– You may put heating pad on the affected region
– Use natural remedies such as horse chestnut as this is known to improve the blood flow in the body specifically in the legs
– Do not hesitate to relax a bit. Take a warm bath before sleeping in order to loose tightened muscles
– Do not forget to supplement your diet with magnesium and potassium. Deficiencies related to these minerals are primary causes of leg cramps
– Try out acupuncture as this is known to relax muscles
– Wear comfortable shoes and try to avoid wearing heels
-Do stretching exercises before sleeping
-Try out water-based exercises to build leg muscles The Top Things You Should Do When Leg Cramps Attack
Nocturnal leg cramp attacks are paralyzing. For this reason, you should educate yourself on how to reduce the amount of pain until they subside. Here are some tried and tested tips on how to reduce leg cramps:
– Consume a tablespoon of yellow mustard
– Get up from the bed and walk for a few minutes. Make sure to shake your legs as this will significantly improve blood flow.
– Sit on the floor and place your legs directly in front you. Slowly flex your feet at the ankle region. Point your toes towards your knees and then follow up by pulling your feet for a better stretch.
– Gentle massage the affect leg in circular movements.
-Make it a point that blankets and sheets are not too constricting so as to prevent leg cramps altogether.