Night cramps: Causes and Remedies
A sharp burning pain in the calf muscles is familiar to almost everyone. The painful sensations can be strong or weak, but they usually last only a few seconds.
As a rule, nocturnal cramps affect only the calf muscles. In some cases, fingers, foot, thigh can be brought together.
In essence, a cramp is a muscle contraction that occurs involuntarily and is accompanied by a burning pain. This makes the muscles hard. People usually face such a problem in middle and older age, but it is possible to experience seizures in childhood.
Types of All Night Cramps
If the involuntary contraction of muscle fibers is caused by overexcitation of the cortical part of the brain, such seizures are referred to as epileptic seizures. Non-epileptic ones are provoked by diseases of the central nervous system, imbalance of nutrients, adverse external conditions.
Also, involuntary muscle contractions can be classified by their nature:
- Tonic – long-term, turning into a state of tension;
- Myoclonic – short;
- Clonic – jerky, cyclically repeating and alternating with relaxation.
By localization, these phenomena are divided into generalized and local. The former covers a significant part of the body (arms, legs, face, neck, side, torso, sometimes spread to the respiratory tract). The latter occurs in certain areas (for example, only in the back or only in the buttock)
Causes of leg cramps at night:
1. Lack of some substances: calcium, potassium, magnesium. This problem usually occurs in people who drink a lot of fluids during the day or sweat a lot.
Along with excess fluid, the necessary elements are also excreted from the body. In addition, during pregnancy, a woman gives all the necessary substances to the developing fetus, which also provokes a lack of potassium, calcium and magnesium in the body.
2. An excess of caffeine in the diet, smoking.
3. Lack of vitamin D, which contributes to a better absorption of calcium by the body. A lack of calcium can cause this unpleasant phenomenon. Vitamin D is produced by the body through exposure to sunlight. In places where the sun is rare, for example, in the north, people are often faced with a lack of this vitamin.
4.An excess of cortisol, which is produced during depression and stress. Cortisol is a hormone that inhibits the absorption of calcium from food, and also increases its excretion through the kidneys.
5. Curvature of the foot due to trauma, flat feet.
6. Taking medications for heartburn, gastritis, intestinal disorders also interferes with the normal absorption of trace elements from food intake, which as a result leads to night cramps.
7. The presence of a disease such as varicose veins.
8. Intake of proteins for building muscle mass. An excess of protein in the diet leads to the appearance of ketosis, which becomes the main reason for the elimination of calcium from the body.
How can you prevent night сramps?
Prevention of cramps exists if you understand the risk of their occurrence and the cause that may lead to it.
For example, with flat feet, it is important to choose the right shoes and use orthopedic insoles. With varicose veins – avoid excessive physical exertion. During pregnancy, observe the regimen and take the necessary vitamins.
In any case, if you want to avoid night cramps, you need to adjust your diet to include foods rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Give preference to dried apricots and dates instead of sweets.
Magnesium and Calves?
Magnesium is a unique mineral, it takes part in hundreds of biochemical processes in the body (according to modern concepts, about 300 biochemical processes in the human body take place with the participation of magnesium).
Magnesium deficiency can be accompanied by the development of arrhythmias, palpitations, increased blood pressure, since the heart is, in fact, a muscle, the work of which depends on regulated tension and relaxation, as well as on normal electrolyte concentration.
Also, symptoms of magnesium deficiency include minor twitching of the muscles in the eyes and corners of the mouth.
According to a recent study, magnesium supplementation may be beneficial in patients with restless legs syndrome. In women, magnesium deficiency can lead to an increased pain during menstruation, as well as causing premature contractions during pregnancy.
Who usually has muscle contraction
This nuisance is familiar to everyone: men and women, children and the elderly, athletes and office workers. Only some get to know it for natural reasons and rarely come across, while for others it becomes a frequent companion.
The risk group includes:
- Children under 3 years old who have experienced a rise in temperature above 38 degrees;
- Elderly people suffering from vascular disease and muscle atrophy;
- Men engaged in hard physical labor;
- Athletes (footballers, swimmers, runners);
- People who abuse alcohol and often experience hangovers;
Predisposes to muscle cramps and pregnancy. In mild cases, they are caused by a lack of vitamins due to restructuring of the body, in severe cases – eclampsia.
What to do if you have cramps in your calves
1. As soon as the pain is noticeable, you need to grab your toes with your hands and pull towards yourself, hold your fingers in this position for about a minute. Then slightly relax your legs and pull your toes again.
2. Pinch the muscle with your fingers to loosen it up a bit.
3. Massage the muscle using a warming ointment.
4. If the pain is not very severe, then you should get out of bed and walk barefoot on a cool floor.
5. Raise your legs, placing them on a soft pillow to start the blood outflow.
For older people, involuntary muscle contractions are often the harbingers of stroke. Convulsions can be replaced by paralysis. Timely treatment is important here, so it is better to immediately call an ambulance.
A balanced ratio of magnesium and calcium levels is a prerequisite for a proper muscle function. While calcium is responsible for your muscle tension, magnesium provides muscle relaxation.
It regulates the transmission of impulses from our nerves to our muscles, interrupts the continuous flow of calcium and provides a decrease in nerve sensitivity, which leads to the desired relaxation of your muscles.
Doctors recommend a daily intake of 300-400 mg of magnesium for healthy adults, depending on age and gender. In the presence of magnesium deficiency, excess calcium builds up in the muscles, as a result of which they cannot fully relax. This leads to painful cramps.
When should You see a doctor?
On an emergency basis, if:
- You have severe and persistent leg cramps;
- There are other alarming symptoms.
Routinely if night cramps interfere with your sleep or you feel weak in your legs.
For most people, nighttime leg cramps are just a temporary irritant and something that rarely wakes you up. But in some cases, you may need to consult a doctor.
A common reason why people postpone going to the doctor is not knowing who can help with such a problem. It is better to start with a therapist, followed by a referral to a specialist such as:
After the initial examination, collecting complaints and receiving test results, the doctor will tell you what additional diagnostic methods are needed.
If it reduces the abdomen, they will send your for an ultrasound scan, the back – for an X-ray, the neck or calf muscles – for Doppler ultrasonography of the vessels and so on…