When your legs cramp at night it is called leg cramps, night cramps or Charley Horse.
They are painful spasms that typically occur in the calf muscles and make your legs cramp at night.
Leg cramps can awaken you in the middle of the night but they can also appear during daytime during physical activities such as running and cycling.
When your legs cramp at night it’s usually harmless and can be relieved or even prevented with some simple stretching or other self-care measures. But, if they start to occur regularly and cause severe discomfort, visit your doctor. This is particularly true if leg cramps are interfering with your sleep or you’re having muscle weakness, swelling, numbness or pain that lingers or continues to come back.
The risk of getting night leg cramps increases with age, but it’s often difficult to pinpoint the cause. In fact, when your legs cramp at night, these cramps often occur for no known reason.
Dehydration, prolonged sitting, or not getting enough potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can be also associated with leg cramps and so can certain medications – including diuretics, beta blockers and other blood pressure drugs.
Sometimes, the cramps may also be related because of an underlying metabolic condition, like an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or a parathyroid condition. Diabetes or other conditions that disrupt your metabolism can also cause muscle cramps.
The pain caused by leg cramps can vary in intensity and last from just a few seconds to 15 minutes or more. In order to get relief you can:
- gently rub a cramped muscle can help it relax;
- stretching can also ease a spasm.
- for a calf cramp, try standing and putting your weight on the leg in question and then slightly bending your knee.
- if you’re in too much pain to stand up, straighten your leg and flex the top of your foot toward your head.
- apply cold or heat also can offer some relief. To relax your tense muscles, apply ice or a cold pack directly to the area where you feel cramping.
- apply heat with a warm towel or heating pad, or by taking a hot bath or shower, can also make you feel better by reducing muscle pain or tenderness.
Night leg cramps can surprise you, but prevention is possible. These steps can help:
Staying hydrated — Drinking water and other liquids throughout the day can keep you from becoming dehydrated. Your muscles contract and relax more easily that way. It’s especially important to replenish your fluids when engaging in physical activity and also continue drinking water and other liquids after being active.
Stretching before bed —The idea to stretch before going to bed if your legs cramp at night is excellent.
Doing light exercise — Riding a stationary bike for a few minutes before bedtime may help prevent cramps while you’re sleeping.
Choosing the right shoes — Wearing shoes with a proper support may also help you prevent leg cramps.
Un–tucking the covers — Loosen or un-tuck the bed-sheets and other covers at the foot of your bed.
If these self-care strategies aren’t stopping your legs cramp at night, pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help you.
15 Foods That Help Leg Cramps
apple cider vinegar
green leafy vegetables
salmon and sardines