Nocturnal Leg Cramps: Causes, Therapy And Prevention
Do you wake up at night with a leg spasm in some part of your leg? It could be mild or extremely severe.
A cramp is a temporary reflexive contraction of the muscle that can last for a few or several minutes. These cramps occur either in a skeletal muscle or smooth muscle.
What Is A Nocturnal Leg Cramp?
A nocturnal leg cramp is an involuntary spasm of the leg muscles. It often happens when a person is either sleeping or resting. These cramps usually occur in the thighs, soles, feet, and the calf muscles. It leaves the affected area sore even after the cramp subsides. The intensity of the pain differs from person to person. The nocturnal leg cramp can intensify from mild to extreme pain in the affected area.
Causes Of Nocturnal Leg Cramps
The actual cause of a nocturnal leg cramp is usually unknown. The following conditions however may cause a nocturnal leg cramp:
Dehydration that causes shortage of body fluids
Lower levels of some essential minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium
Reduction in the blood flow due to protractile sitting or resting in awkward positions
Intake of certain drugs, such as antipsychotics, birth control pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids
Medical ailments such as thyroid disease, hemodialysis, lumbar canal stenosis, peripheral arterial disease, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease
Later stages of pregnancy
Accumulation of lactic acid around the muscles during anaerobic respiration, when the person has increased heart rate due to any activity
Therapy For Nocturnal Leg Cramps
An occasional nocturnal leg cramp doesn’t need medical attention. However, if the pain and intensity of the cramp prolongs, you must visit a general physician. A general physician will inquire about probable symptoms. He will ask about the areas of pain and numbness, if any. He might suggest some stretching exercises if the affected area is your calf muscle.
Painkillers, even though they are not so effective, provide a momentary relief. Stretching can also provide relief.
An effective medication for nocturnal cramp is quinine. Studies have proved that a limited dosage of quinine has given positive results. However, the intake of quinine has its own side-effects. A patient on a quinine dosage is always under close supervision of the general physician.
Preventing Nocturnal Leg Cramps
To prevent a nocturnal leg cramp, adhere to various practices such as:
Provision of good support to the toes in resting and sleeping positions.
Staying well hydrated.
Exercising in a controlled and correct manner.
Choose a correct pair of footwear.