Almost everyone had experienced leg cramps at some point in their lives. It is the excruciating pain caused by the involuntary contraction of the muscles that usually occur when your body is at rest. Leg cramps often happen at night time (night cramps) which may last for a couple of seconds up to 10 minutes.
What causes night cramps?
Night leg cramps are sudden calf muscle spasms. What causes this condition is usually unknown. However, there are theories that try to explain such occurrence. One of which is when a muscle is placed in a shortened position, (when the knees are slightly bent while lying in bed) any further contraction causes spasm.
There are various activities and conditions that may cause a person to experience night cramps.
- Pregnancy - A pregnant woman is prone to muscle cramps due to the reduced amounts of minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
- Medical conditions such as high or low potassium and sodium level, under-active thyroid gland, multiple sclerosis, poor blood circulation and other nerve disorders.
- Having a renal or kidney dialysis
- Taking medications such as diuretics or water tablets, cimetidine, salbutamol, nifedipine, terbutaline, nicotinic acid, clofibrate, penicillamine and lithium.
- Excess alcohol
- Over use of muscles
- Standing or sitting for a long period of time
If you experience cramps frequently and it prevent you from getting enough sleep, then you should consider different ways to prevent the pain.
- Tell your doctor if you are taking a drug that may be causing night cramps. He may recommend an alternative drug for you. If you feel other problems aside from night cramps, immediately see a doctor in order to rule out a secondary reason for your cramps.
- Maintain proper hydration. Staying hydrated will help balance the electrolytes in your body and prevent the occurrence of spasms and muscle cramps throughout the body. You need to drink enough glasses of water every day to keep your body hydrated.
- Improve overall health with supplements. You can take calcium, magnesium supplements that can help reduce spasms. Spirulina powder is another example of supplement that is rich with vitamins, minerals and the essential amino acids that your body needs to fight various health problems.
- Take medications. There are over the counter drugs such as crampeze, acetaminophen and naproxen that you can use to help improve peripheral circulation and relieve the pain caused by muscle cramps. Make sure to follow the instructions included in the label.
- Go to bed in proper sleeping posture. Some experts suggest that to avoid muscle cramps, you have to prevent your calf muscle from shortening while you are asleep. Others also advice to lie on your back and use a pillow to hold up your feet in bed.