Night Time Leg Cramps: Causes, Treatment for Pain Relief

Ever experienced sudden pain in the legs during the night when you lay down on the bed?  This pain can sometimes be intense that your legs may feel like they are paralyzed, and the muscle as hard as a surface. All this can happen with no particular reason – an injury, trauma or prior warning because they are leg cramps that specifically occur at night time.

Almost 60% of adult individuals after the age of 40 experience this at some point in time. And leg cramps may not be as random and without reason. They could be a sign of a medical condition brewing in your body. So what exactly are leg cramps, and what causes them? What are the pain relief options and how to treat leg cramps? We asked the same questions to the joint replacement specialist and orthopaedic doctor in Mumbai Dr Chirag Patel. Read on to know his answers:

What are leg cramps?

Leg cramps are painfully strong involuntary contractions of leg muscles that last for a few seconds or minutes. In general, there are three types of cramps based on the cause that triggers them, which are as follows :

  1. Cramps that happen during the exercise which happens when the muscle is required to do more work without an adequate supply of oxygen.
  2. Muscle cramps that occur when an individual suffers from nerve damage, or spinal cord injury or undergoes chemotherapy.
  3. Night-time leg cramps are the third and most common type of cramps that majority of the people experience and they have no apparent cause. These leg cramps usually involve the calf, feet and thigh muscles.

If there is no apparent cause, why do leg cramps show up?

What causes leg cramps?

There is no one pinpoint cause of the painful contraction in the leg muscles, but they are certain risk factors that usually contribute to their onset:

  • Inactivity & sedentary lifestyle
  • Prolonged standing or improper sitting position
  • Lack of mobility and stretch of muscles
  • Dehydration and tired muscles
  • Pregnancy
  • Side effects of medications

In addition to the above certain medical condition may also trigger leg cramps at night. These medical conditions include kidney failure. nerve damage, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver failure, flat feet, hypothyroidism, and osteoarthritis.

Treatment and Prevention of Leg Cramps:

Usually, leg cramps last for a minute and resolve themselves. If they don’t and the pain still lingers then one can perform the following to relieve the leg cramps at night:

  1. Leg massage: Intense massaging of the leg can soothe and loosen the muscle to reduce contraction.
  2. Stretching: Cramps in the calf or feet can be relieved by actively stretching the muscles by straightening the leg.
  3. Walking on heels: Since leg cramps usually affect calves an feet, walking on heels is found to provide instant relief for leg cramps in the majority of cases.
  4. Apply heat: Heat calms the muscle and clears up the tension built due to involuntary contractions. So, consider applying a hot towel or a heating pad to the muscle for relief.

The risk of leg cramps can be significantly reduced by following a few tips and consistently adhering to them. “One is always suggested to drink plenty of water and follow an active lifestyle. Regular exercise with an active stretching routine, adequate for support, avoiding inactivity that lasts more than 45 minutes will cut down the chance of leg cramps”, says joint replacement specialist and orthopaedic surgeon in Mumbai Dr Chirag Patel.

However, if you are frequently experiencing leg cramps which doesn’t seem to resolve even after following the above tips, then there could be an inherent reason that needs to be solved. If you are in Mumbai and are looking to solve your nocturnal leg cramps problem, you can contact Dr Chirag Patel .