How To Treat Night Time Leg Cramps
And not give up your exercise routine
Just when you think you're doing yourself a favor by exercising, painful night time leg cramps wake you up at night and ruin a perfectly good episode of sleep! Whether your fitness regime is something new you've introduced, or you're a veteran of jogging, walking, tennis or swimming, night time leg cramps can make their presence felt in a very disturbing way. Even professional athletes suffer from them. When they actually wake you, they can linger for half an hour or so and make going back to sleep very difficult indeed. If they happen frequently enough, you can begin to dread bedtime.
A little prevention can go a long way to improving your nocturnal quality of life. Applying a heat pad to your muscles for 10 to 15 minutes before sleep can be of assistance. When cramps occur during sleep, it's usually because of an amplification of a muscle reflex that happens normally. As you roll over in your sleep, your calf muscles contract and along with them, the tendons stretch. Nerve stretch receptors in the tendon come alive and relay a message to the spinal cord instructing the calf muscles to contract, or spasm. You may not be aware of this at times, but at other times, the muscles will not relax and they will cause pain. Stretching your calf muscles before bedtime can help to exhaust the stretch reflex.
Calf stretching exercise
- Stand about 3 feet from a wall, facing it.
- Step forward with your left foot.
- Put your hands on the wall at chest level. Bend your elbows slightly and have shoulders, hips and feet aimed towards the wall.
- Bend your left knee gently and feel the stretch in your right calf muscle as you do so. Keep both heels on the ground at all times.
- Hold the stretch for at least 15 seconds.
- Repeat with the other side.
Other causes of night time leg cramps can include a pinched nerve, muscle damage, mineral deficiencies or hormonal fluctuations. If you feel any of these may be contributing to your cramps, see your doctor and he will examine your general health before probing further into your medical background if he deems it necessary. Night time leg cramps can sometimes be one of the symptoms of diabetes.
The best treatment for night time leg cramps as they occur is to try and stretch the muscle, walk around or massage the area firmly to aid circulation. A heat pack may be helpful but usually, the pain is so pronounced that a heat pack may seem to be too passive an idea to be successful.
Potassium and calcium supplements or adding foods to the diet that are rich in these elements have been shown to reduce the incidence of night time leg cramps. Maintaining your hydration levels is important, especially if you've been exercising vigorously. When you sweat, you lose salts from your body and a sports drink can help to replace the electrolytes lost. Diuretic chemicals can also contribute to a loss of important elements.