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What Causes Leg Cramps At Night & How To Manage Them?

About Leg Cramps At Night:

Leg Cramps at Night, which is medically termed as Nocturnal Leg Cramps or Charley Horses, is an extremely common condition that mostly occurs due to sedentary lifestyle during the daytime or if the muscles are extremely fatigued. There are also certain medical conditions that also cause Leg Cramps at Night. It is quite painful and results due to involuntary spasms of muscles of the lower extremities. The calf is the most common muscle that causes Leg Cramps at Night even though the cramping may be felt in the feet and the thighs.[2]

Just stretching the muscles in most cases is good enough to get rid of the pain caused due to leg cramping. In cases where Leg Cramps at Night have no known cause then a consultation with a physician is recommended, especially if the cramping occurs quite regularly for a diagnosis and treatment.[2]

Studies suggest that approximately 60% of adults in the United States have Leg Cramps at Night at some point or the other. This extremely painful condition is one of the causes for insomnia in many people. Aside from muscle fatigue dysfunction of the nerves, electrolyte imbalance also at times may cause Leg Cramps at Night.[1]

Some medical conditions that are associated with Leg Cramps at Night include lumbar stenosis, pregnancy, and cirrhosis. For a confirmative diagnosis, generally there are no specific tests pertaining to Leg Cramps at Night. This article highlights some of the common causes and ways to manage the condition.[1]

What Causes Leg Cramps At Night?

Some of the common causes of Leg Cramps at Night include:

Muscle Fatigue: As stated, this is the most common cause of Leg Cramps at Night. This is more common in runners and athletes. The muscles get tired after high levels of physical training. Overexertion also is one of the reasons for muscle fatigue. This happens after prolonged periods of walking or strenuous activity.[2]

Standing constantly for a long time also causes the muscles to get tired resulting in leg cramps at night. This is quite common in people who work as greeters. The muscles of these people fatigue during the day due to standing for long period of time and later on start cramping.[2]

Inactivity: People who basically remain inactive during the daytime also are vulnerable to Leg Cramps at Night. This occurs mostly in people who sit for long hours at work in desk jobs. This causes the muscle to contract which later on cramp at night when they go to bed. People who do not stretch their legs or exercise regularly are believed to be more at risk for developing Leg Cramps at Night.[2]

Body Positioning: The position the body is in for a certain period of time also increases the risk for a person having Leg Cramps at Night. This is because the body positioning may restrict blood flow to the legs causing them to cramp up. This is mostly seen in people who sit with their legs crossed for long hours.[2]

Age: This is also a crucial factor when it comes to having Leg Cramps at Night. In a study published by the BMC Family Practice, it has been mentioned that about 30% of people above the age of 50 develop Leg Cramps at Night frequently.[2]

Pregnancy: Some studies suggest a link between pregnancy and Leg Cramps at Night. This is believed to be because of the increased nutritional demands and certain hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy.[2]

Medication Side Effect: There are quite a few medications which have Leg Cramps at Night at night as a side effect profile. These medications include but are not limited to naproxen, Forteo, Evista, Xopenex, Combivent, and Lyrica.[2]

Medical Conditions: As stated, there are a variety of medical conditions that cause Leg Cramps at Night. These conditions include diabetes, cardiac ailment, renal failure, cirrhosis, lumbar stenosis, and hypothyroidism. There are also certain nerve disorders that at times also cause Leg Cramps at Night.[2]

How to Manage Leg Cramps at Night?

Coming to the treatments of Leg Cramps at Night, stretching the leg is the most effective treatment for it. It is also beneficial to massage the affected area gently to soothe the muscles and control the pain and cramping. Some people also use foam roller to massage the affected area to get some relief from the pain and cramping. Heat application is also a very effective way to relax the muscles and control the spasms and pain.[2]

Additionally, NSAIDs like Tylenol or ibuprofen can be taken to control the pain even though it is not beneficial for treating the cramping sensation. For people who have chronic Leg Cramps at Night, the physician will prescribe medications in the form of gabapentin or Soma. However, it is essential for the patient to speak with the physician regarding any potential side effects as a result of the medications specifically taken for Leg Cramps at Night.[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 27, 2020

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