According to the Cleveland Clinic, it says that Nocturnal leg cramps (NLC) are the pains that occur in the legs during the night when you awaken from your sleep. Most commonly NLC arises while sleeping and may also surface during periods of inactivity.

NLC usually targets muscle in the calf area, but they can also spread to the feet or thighs; they can also be quite painful, creating the infamous and sudden ‘tightening and knotting’ symptoms. These symptoms may last anywhere from a few seconds and up to several minutes.

Systematically having legs cramp is more common in adults over age 50 but may occur in younger adults and children. NLC appears to affect both sexes equally.

Differences between NLC and Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

‘Night leg cramps are also known as nocturnal leg cramps. They are very painful. These involuntary contractions or spasms of muscles in your legs usually occurs when you’re in the bed.’ ~ Mayo Clinic

NLS and RLS are not the same at all. According to the symptoms, RLS creates a creates a nagging discomfort as opposed to the sudden and relatively severe pain of NLC patients. Another RLS symptom is different from those of NLC. It is the desire to move the legs for symptomatic relief.

Relatedly, movement of the legs often causes the symptoms of RLS to dissipate; this is not the case with NLC, in which the affected muscles must usually be stretched out to experience relief.

Scientists Explain Why Your Legs Cramp at Night (And How to Fix It) legs cramp

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when your legs cramp Nocturnal leg cramps (NLC) are pains that occur in the legs during the night that usually cause awakening from sleep. Though NLC most commonly arises while sleeping, they may also surface during periods of inactivity.

Read :  Fast Weight Loss Tricks (That Are Healthy)

NLC generally target muscles in the calf area, but may spread to the feet or thighs; they can also be quite painful, creating the infamous and sudden ‘tightening and knotting’ symptoms. These symptoms may last anywhere from a few seconds up to several minutes.

Systematically having legs cramp is more common in adults over age 50 but may occur in younger adults and children. NLC appears to affect both sexes equally.

Differences between NLC and Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

‘Night leg cramps, also called nocturnal leg cramps, are painful, involuntary contractions or spasms of muscles in your legs, usually occurring when you’re in bed.’ ~ Mayo Clinic

NLC is not the same as restless legs syndrome or RLS. Symptom-wise, RLS creates a nagging discomfort as opposed to the sudden and relatively severe pain of NLC patients. Another RLS symptom different from those of NLC is the desire to move the legs for symptomatic relief.

Relatedly, movement of the legs often causes the symptoms of RLS to dissipate; this is not the case with NLC, in which the affected muscles must usually be stretched out to experience relief.

WHAT MAKES LEG CRAMPS HAPPEN AT NIGHT?

While the underlying cause(s) of NLC is not ascertainable, most cases wherein a person acquires the condition involves one of the following lifestyle habits:

  • Prolonged periods of sitting
  • Standing or working on concrete floors for extended amounts of time
  • Over-exertion of the muscles
  • Poor posture
  • ‘Slouching’ instead of ‘sitting’

Pregnancy also appears to increase the occurrence of NLC.

Medical conditions which positively correlate with NLC onset include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte disparities
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes, hypothyroidism)
  • Kidney failure
  • Metabolic problems
  • Neuromuscular disorders (e.g., motor neuron disease, myopathy, neuropathy.)
  • Structural conditions (e.g., ‘flat feet’, peripheral artery disease)
Read :  How A 70 Year Old Woman Who Went Sugar Free 28 Years Ago Looks Like Today

Testing and Diagnosis

If your legs cramp during the evening hours, it is problematic for two reasons. First and the most important one is that NLC disrupts your sleep. Over the long term, the propensity to wake up when you should be sleeping may alter your circadian rhythm, throwing your sleep cycle out of whack. The second one is that the pain can be quite severe; sometimes to the point where stretching and activating the muscles no longer seems to provide much relief.

Therefore, it may be necessary to see a licensed physician for testing and diagnosis. You can always feel free to try the self-care tips first, though! More than likely, the doctor will order some lab works that will include tests for electrolyte imbalances.

The results will ultimately determine whether or not someone is diagnosed with NLC, RLS, or some other condition.

Preventing NLC (Self-care!)

Dehydration seems to be one of the main leading causes of people who say their legs cramp at night and this may be completely avoidable! With that in mind, make sure to drink plenty of fluids during the daytime. Especially, remember to abstain from drinking too much of water before bedtime, as the urge to go to the bathroom during sleeping hours won’t help.

Speaking of pre-bedtime habits, get into the routine of stretching your leg muscles a few minutes before you go to bed. Riding a stationary bike for a few minutes may work, as well. Also, untuck any sheets or bed covers that may restrict foot movement.

Read :  20 Vegetables and Herbs You Can Grow Indoors from Scraps

RELIEF IF YOU’RE LEGS CRAMP

The chances are high that, despite all of your best efforts, nightly leg cramps may still happen time to time –though they may be much rarer. In such instances, it’s helpful to have few ideas for immediate relief. Here are some suggestions:

  • Take a brief warm shower or bath.
  • Stand up, walk, and jiggle your affected leg(s).
  • Massage the cramped muscles with your hands or with an ice pack.
  • Lift the affected leg up and flex the foot upwards toward your head.

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) also recommends:

  • Applying heat to muscles that feel tense or tight.
  • Holding the leg in a stretched position until the cramping ceases.
  • Stopping or strictly limiting any activity that may have caused the leg cramps (see above for a partial list.)
  • Use of cold packs on tender or painful muscles.

Medical Treatment

Per Medical News Today, there is no prescription medicine recommended for cramps. Instead, an over-the-counter (OTC) pain-reliever may help. Please note that no medical evidence exists that demonstrates the effectiveness of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – Advil, Aleve, etc. – for NLC.

Supplement-wise, there is some evidence that calcium channel blockers, multivitamins, and vitamin B-12 may also help.