The Best Way to Prevent Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Imagine, you are sound asleep and all of a sudden you feel an intense pain that seizes your leg. You try to move; however, your leg feels paralyzed. When you touch your leg, the muscles feel hard. Does this scenario sound familiar? If you are one of the 60% of adults who are affected by similar symptoms, you may be experiencing nocturnal leg cramps. Nocturnal leg cramps are also referred to as muscle spasms, or charley horses. They occur when one or more of the muscles in your leg tightens involuntarily. Typically the most commonly affected muscle is the calf, however muscle cramps can also affect the quadriceps, and hamstrings. Frequent nocturnal leg cramps can be disruptive to your sleep as well as cause muscle tenderness the day after.
What causes nocturnal leg cramps?
In most cases, the actual cause of nocturnal leg cramps is unknown. However, there are some cases that are linked to muscle spasms:
– Sitting improperly (i.e. sitting with your legs crossed, or toes pointed out for long periods of time)
– Standing or working on concrete floors
– Overexertion of muscles
– Sitting for long periods of time
– Sedentary lifestyle
– Prolonged standing
– Shortening of the tendons
Individuals who are pregnant, dehydrated or have electrolyte imbalances, and have flat feet are also more prone to have nocturnal leg cramps.
How to prevent nocturnal leg cramps
Frequent nocturnal leg cramps can be painful and tiresome as it disrupts your sleep. The good news is that there are a number of things that you can do to help alleviate leg cramp pain as well as prevent future attacks from happening.
– Drink lots of fluids: Fluids are important for normal muscle contraction. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day. Fluid intake may vary depending on weather, age, activity level, and medications being taken.
– Stretch your legs: Stretching your legs, particularly your calves and hamstrings can reduce the severity and frequency of leg cramps.
– Ride a stationary bike: If you have access to a stationary bike, taking the time to ride for a few minutes before bed will help loosen the leg muscles.
– Check your sleeping position: Avoid sleeping positions that cause your feet to turn downward. Sleeping on your back with a pillow behind your knees is best.
– Avoid heavy or tucked bedding: Heavy or tucked bedding may cause your feet to turn downward while you sleep. Bedding should be loose, and un-tucked, which allows your feet and toes to remain upright while you sleep.
– Choose supportive footwear: Unsupportive footwear may aggravate the nerves and muscles in your feet. If you have flat feet, choosing supportive footwear is especially important.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, stretching the affected muscle is the most effective way to relieve cramps. Massaging the affected area, walking around, jiggling the leg, warm baths or showers may also be helpful. Additionally, a Vitamin E supplement, or a Vitamin B complex supplement has shown to provide some benefit for leg cramps. If you are pregnant, a magnesium supplement may provide additional benefit.
If you are suffering from frequent nocturnal leg cramps consider a consult with a chiropractic doctor relies on who can offer the proper therapy and advice to help alleviate your pain. Chiropractors are trained in providing treatment plans to help manage pain and heal injuries in a holistic manner.