Nocturnal leg cramps are leg pains that mostly occur at night when you are trying to sleep. They are also called charley horses. These cramps are not to be confused with restless leg syndrome, although both conditions occur in the legs when you are trying to sleep. If experiencing any leg pains, please go to your doctor for the most accurate diagnosis possible. Symptoms Common symptoms of leg cramps include:
- Intense cramp or spasms in the calf area, thigh or foot of one or both legs
- Pain comes and goes, lasting a few seconds at a time
- Pain mostly starts when you are just about to fall asleep or have just woken up
- Pain comes after the leg has been at rest for some time
Causes of Night Time Leg Cramping Doctors are not entirely sure why people experience nocturnal cramps. However, people who suffer from them tend to have these factors in common:
- They exercised too much the day before or had to stand on a hard surface for hours
- They have flat feet
- They may suffer from deficiencies of important nutrients like potassium or calcium
- They are dehydrated
- They slept in an awkward position.
In addition, people suffering from thyroid disease or who take certain medications such as steroids, statins for blood pressure or oral contraceptives are prone to developing leg cramps.
Immediate Pain Treatment You do not need to suffer if you experience leg cramps. There are things you can do to help ease the pain without having to take pain medication. These include:
- Lightly bouncing the affecting leg or wriggling it
- When you can put weight on the leg, walk around to help stretch the muscles
- While lying down, raise the affected leg and slowly stretch the calf muscles by pointing your toes at the ceiling
- Rub an ice pack on the pain
- Alternatively, use a heating pad on the pain but do not rub and do not place the hot pad directly against bare skin as this could cause a burn
- Take a warm bath or hot shower.
Even if these pain-killing techniques are effective, you should still talk to your doctor about these pains. They are not normal and should not be ignored. They do not always go way on their own, such as when a person suffers from a thyroid disease. Unless the thyroid disease is treated, the cramps will continue. Preventing Charlie Horses In some instances, leg cramps can be avoided by eating a well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water or clear fluids like herbal tea to keep from getting dehydrated. Eat foods rich in calcium and potassium. Cut back on smoking, beverages containing caffeine and alcohol as these can all dehydrate the body. Before taking any new medication, ask your doctor about any possible side effects. If you are just starting new medications and develop any strange new symptom like leg cramps, call your doctor. You may need a lower dosage or need to be placed on a different medication.
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