Nocturnal leg cramps are cramps that occur during night, at rest and while a person is sleeping. The cramps most commonly affect the calf muscles and may wake a person from sleep. They occur in a form of painful sensations and contractions and last approximately 10 minutes. The affected area is sore after the cramps go away. It is estimated that the incidence of such cramps increases with age. They mostly affect people over the age of 50. However, such leg cramps may occur during childhood as well. Both genders are affected equally.
Causes of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The actual cause of nocturnal cramps in legs has not been fully clarified yet, but doctors believe that they are connected with spending too much time sitting, dehydration, over-exertion of the leg muscles and standing/ working on concrete floors. Even improper sitting may cause nocturnal leg cramps. Apart from the previously mentioned nocturnal leg cramps are also associated with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, Parkinson's disease, some endocrine disorders, and contraceptive pills. And finally, nocturnal leg cramps may occur due to mineral deficiencies. Low level of certain minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium may induce nocturnal leg cramps.
The condition generally affects older people and is in majority of cases connected with already existing conditions.
Prevention of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
In some cases nocturnal leg cramps can be prevented with proper hydration (at least 6-8 glasses of water per day), regular exercises or stretching of the calf muscles before going to sleep and wearing appropriate shoes. During night the legs are not supposed to be tightly wrapped in blankets and sheets.
How to deal with Nocturnal Leg Cramps?
Patients who are suffering from other conditions must have their primary disease brought under control and nocturnal leg cramps will withdraw. If there is a lack of minerals the deficiency is corrected with food rich in a particular mineral or with mineral supplements.
In some people massage can eliminate discomfort caused by nocturnal leg cramps. People who spend too much time sitting are due to make frequent pauses and walk. They should also engage in any kind of physical activity that involves leg muscles. Proper stretching successfully alleviates discomfort.
It is essential to make the difference between nocturnal leg cramps and restless leg syndrome. Even though both conditions occur at night restless leg syndrome does not feature with pain and cramping. In people suffering from restless leg syndrome there is a desire of one to move his/ her legs and this movement relieves the discomfort and a crawling sensation.