Nocturnal leg cramps or leg cramps are terms for the pain in the legs which occurs while sleeping, and can wake you up in the middle of the night. Its reason may be prolonged hours of inactivity. In most cases, this pain occurs in the area in the calf, but can also appear in the thighs and feet as well. Both men and women can experience leg cramps and they occur more commonly in adults over the age of 50.
It can sometimes last only a few seconds and sometimes, more even couple minutes. Even though the pain can fade away quickly, the muscle soreness may linger for the rest of the night or even until the following day.
Leg cramps vs. restless leg syndrome
These two syndromes both occur during sleeping hours, but that is their only similarity, namely, they are two completely different phenomena, and they differ in a number of ways:
the restless leg syndrome is more of a discomfort or crawling feeling in your legs.
the restless leg syndrome does not cause pain or cramping, while nocturnal leg cramps do.
Moving the leg in the restless leg syndrome offers relief – moving the leg in nocturnal leg cramps does not, instead stretching is required.
the restless leg syndrome causes the desire to move the legs, while nocturnal leg cramps often prevent movement.
Causes and risk factors of leg cramps at night
Nocturnal leg cramps can occur due to a number of reasons, but their exact cause is often unknown. However, these are the potential causes and risk factors:
Standing or working on concrete floors
Sitting for prolonged periods of time
Over-exertion of the muscles in the leg
Moreover, nocturnal leg cramps can also appear due to certain medical conditions, including:
pregnancy, dehydration, diuretics, statins, beta agonists, structural disorders like flat feet, endocrine disorders like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and neuromuscular disorders.
Treatment and prevention
Different leg cramps treatments depend on the cause of the syndrome. For instance, if the reason is dehydration, then the solution is to stay well hydrated. However, in order to prevent and treat this condition, these tips will be of great help.