Night Leg Cramps

Definition:A muscle cramp is a sudden, uncontrolled contraction of a muscle. This type of pain is most commonly experienced in the legs, and therefore often called a leg cramp or a “charley horse.”

Leg cramps occur when the muscle suddenly and forcefully contracts. The most common muscles to contract in this manner are muscles that cross two joints. These muscles include the calf (crossing the ankle and knee), the hamstring (crossing the knee and hip), and the quadriceps (also crossing the knee and hip).

Leg cramps usually last less than one minute, but may last several minutes before the contraction subsides. In some patients, the leg cramps occur primarily at night, and can awaken the patient from sleep.

A muscle cramp is an involuntary, sustained tightening (contraction) of one or more of your muscles. It can result in intense pain and an inability to use the affected muscles. Night leg cramps are contractions of the leg muscles, usually in the back of the lower leg (calf). They often occur just as you’re falling asleep or just as you’re waking up.

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Causes:
The exact cause of night leg cramps isn’t known. Some experts believe they may be due to abnormal processing of electrolytes — essential elements and chemical substances your body needs for basic functions — by muscles. Almost everyone has occasional leg cramps. But they occur most often in older adults. Common causes of night leg cramps include:

Muscle overexertion
Prolonged sitting
Dehydration
Pregnancy
Diabetes
Decreased potassium levels
Neuromuscular disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
Certain medications, such as albuterol, niacin, diuretics, and some calcium channel blockers and antipsychotic medications
Alcohol use

If you do get a leg cramp, you may be able to make it go away by:
1.Walking on the affected leg
2.Massaging the affected muscle
3.Straightening your leg and flexing your foot toward your knee until you feel the calf muscles stretch
4.Applying a cold pack to the affected muscle
5.Taking a hot bath

6.When your calf muscles cramp Flex your foot up (toes to ceiling) and hold until the cramping stops.

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7.Apply heat to cramping muscles
8. Massage the cramped muscles
9. Make sure you eat plenty of potassium rich foods – (bananas,
tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit)

To help prevent night leg cramps:
Drink plenty of fluids during the day.
Stretch your leg muscles before bedtime.
Get adequate potassium in your diet.
If you have frequent and severe leg cramps at night, talk to your doctor. Treatment results vary. But the most effective treatments based on current research are:

Vitamin B-12
Gabapentin

Night leg cramps should be distinguished from another common cause of night leg discomfort called restless legs syndrome, a condition in which your legs have a creepy, crawly or fidgety sensation unless you move them. The sensation often worsens as night approaches. Restless legs syndrome is a neurologic condition that requires different treatment from that of night leg cramps.


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Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/night-leg-cramps/AN00499
http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/sprainsstrains/a/legcramp.htm

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6 thoughts on “Night Leg Cramps”

  1. Light exercise and drink plenty of liquids to get rid of leg cramps.
    I wonder if there's a clear connection between the leg cramps and vitD deficiency?

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