Calf cramps are never fun. But they are especially unpleasant when they wake us up at night and disrupt sleep.
Muscle cramps are sudden, uncontrollable muscle spasms that cause severe pain. Although they can strike at any time, 75 percent of leg cramps occur at night. It is not yet clear why leg cramps occur more often at night. But usually, it is possible to identify the trigger of the tension.
There are different origins for calf cramps. There are some that seem obvious, while others may go unnoticed.
Emotional stress can affect the muscles. Muscles reflexively tense during stress, and the underlying problem with muscle cramps, including calf cramps, is sudden involuntary contractions that are often painful.
As a result, taking steps to manage stress during the day can help minimize cramps at night.
Drinking too little water or not getting enough minerals like potassium, calcium, or magnesium can affect muscle function, which can increase the chance of cramps. So it’s one more reason to drink during the day and make sure you eat a balanced and nutrient-dense diet.
Water is important for transporting vitamins, minerals, and other substances throughout the body. Hydration is not the same as caffeine or alcohol, since they are diuretics and end up dehydrating the person even more. Muscle needs hydration to function properly; without it, cramps are more likely to occur. That’s why athletes who don’t replenish water lost from sports and exercise end up skipping. Similarly, low water intake in a sedentary person can lead to muscle spasms during sleep.
train too much
Regular physical activity is good for many reasons. But pushing yourself to the limit can tire your muscles, which can lead to cramps.
Intense exercise can also increase your risk of dehydration or electrolyte imbalances if you’re sweating a lot and not replacing lost fluids, and that can also contribute to cramps.
Calf cramps probably aren’t the first sign that you’re pregnant. But as the baby grows and the weight increases, the extra stress on the muscles can lead to cramps.
In fact, up to 40 percent of pregnant women have leg cramps at night.
standing for a long time
Spending more time than usual on your feet or walking can lead to leg cramps at night. Walking or standing too long (especially in poorly weight-bearing shoes) can cause nerves in the spine to become compressed.
Diuretics, which are often prescribed for high blood pressure, can cause the body to excrete excess potassium, calcium or magnesium and lead to calf cramps.
Other prescription drugs also list increased muscle cramps as a side effect, including:
- Albuterol, used to treat lung diseases such as asthma or bronchitis.
- Estrogen therapy, used to treat the symptoms of menopause.
- Gabapentin, which treats seizures and nerve pain caused by shingles.
- Statins, which treat high cholesterol.
- Sleep aids.
If we find that a new medication is causing cramps, the doctor may be able to adjust the dosage or change the prescription.
Having a low or non-existent arch can cause foot pain and swelling that worsens when we are active. And in some cases, that could lead to leg cramps.
Wearing the right shoes or orthotics can provide more arch support and reduce discomfort. It is recommended to go to an orthopedic and comment that we suffer cramps in the twins at night.
How to stop it?
Gentle stretching can help you find relief when calf cramps strike. A simple calf stretch is recommended: Try sitting down and leaning forward onto your toes for a minute or two, or leaning forward while standing against a wall and lifting your heels off the ground.
If that is not enough, we will try to massage the area or apply a warm compress. Heat can help prevent nighttime leg cramps. For massage, we will rub the site of tension in a circular rhythm to loosen muscle tension under the skin. We will stretch the calf muscles by grasping the toes, pulling them towards the knee and extending the leg out. This will exhaust the stretch reflex before going to bed. If the pain persists, we will apply a heat compress for about 10 minutes or take a hot bath or shower.
Nocturnal leg cramps can usually be managed with simple lifestyle changes, unless we have an underlying condition that needs to be addressed. Experts recommend:
- Stretch regularly . Stretching helps keep your leg muscles flexible, so they’re less likely to tighten. A few minutes of gentle leg stretching before bed can make all the difference.
- Stay hydrated . Take sips of water throughout the day to ensure your fluid needs are met. When muscles are hydrated, they are less likely to cramp.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption . Both can act as diuretics, which can contribute to dehydration.
- Avoid exercising in extreme heat . Heavy sweating can increase your risk of dehydration and cause you to lose electrolyte minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium. If we sweat a lot while exercising, it is advisable to replenish lost electrolytes with a sports drink.
- Wear comfortable shoes . Well-fitting and supportive shoes will keep us comfortable while standing and help minimize compression of the nerves in the spine, which can reduce the chance of cramping later on.
- Drink pickle juice . Pickle or lime juice is unusually effective for cramps. Before sleeping, we will drink pickle juice. The results of an investigation affirm that this is a proven fact. Pickle juice is known to calm overactive neurons in the brain that trigger muscle contractions.