A leg cramp results from a muscle spasm in the leg. A muscle spasm is when the leg muscle contracts too hard and won’t relax.
Typically, a leg cramp will occur in a calf muscle- below and behind the knee, but can also happen in quads, ankles, and even shins.
Occasionally, the small muscles in your feet could be affected, and starts with your toes curling back towards your heel. Use the following steps to avoid food and leg cramps in bed.
First of all, do an overall assessment of your general health. Do you have a health condition such as neuropathy or fibromyalgia with can make you more likely to develop cramps?
Are you taking medications for those or other conditions? Muscle cramping could be a side effect of certain medications.
Make sure that if you do have underlying medical conditions that you are being properly treated for them. As you get older, nocturnal leg cramps will become much more common.
However, you should be aware that they could be a result of specific conditions such as hypertension, fibromyalgia, diabetes, and others. Making sure that you’re being properly treated for these can alleviate some of the muscles spasms.
Discuss your foot/leg cramps with your physician. Bring a list of the medications that you’re taking and review them together with your physician.
It may be that your medications are causing your leg cramps or making them worse or causing them to occur more often.
There may be some other medications that you can take to treat your condition. If you’re experiencing other symptoms besides cramps, ask your doctor to run some tests to rule out a secondary cause.
Discuss the possibility of using muscle relaxers for your cramps. However, you should know that many of these medications can result in dependency, so make sure you talk with your doctor about how you can avoid becoming addicted to these.
Commonly, physicians and physical therapists will recommend that you use stretching exercises to relieve nocturnal cramps.
However, there are some that are not convinced. Whether you believe they will work or not, stretching isn’t harmful, so try them.
If they help, great- if not, that’s okay too. Stretch out your hamstrings, quads, and inner thigh muscles gently- don’t overdo it. There are lots of online instructions you can find online.
Find the proper positioning for your legs. It is advised that you find a position that will keep your calf muscle from shortening when you’re sleeping.
Though it’s not been proven, some experts believe that positioning your feet can be helpful. Find a way to “trap” your toes against your sheets, which can keep your foot from turning down and causing your calf muscles to seize.
If you do get a cramp, get up out of bed and walk around. Go to the kitchen and get a drink of water or walk around the house for a moment. This will loosen up the muscle in your leg and relieve the cramp.
Cold muscles are much more likely to cramp up than warm ones. Even if it’s a fairly warm night, as you sleep, your legs tend to become much more sensitive to the cool drafts.
A light sheet will help to insulate your body and keep your legs warm and make them much less likely to cramp.
In the winter time, consider keeping a covered hot water bottle near the area of your leg that tends to cram up the most often.
If you start experiencing a cramp, take a warm shower- it just might help to ease the pain if you stay in for a while, a hot bath can help to soothe your leg/foot cramps and they will be much less likely to come back. Be sure that the water is warm, not scalding.
Finally, make sure that you’re getting good nutrition. Choose foods that are high in potassium, sodium, and magnesium. If you’re not getting enough of these in your diet, talk to your physician about taking supplements.
You can get supplements at most pharmacies and health food stores. However, you must use caution that you don’t take too much- talk to you physician about the correct dosage, as well as which form you should choose (magnesium citrate vs. magnesium gluconate). Having mineral deficiencies can cause cramping in your legs and/or feet.
Avoid using quinine, as serious safety concerns have been found to be related to quinine use. These safety concerns include dizziness, nausea, auditory/visual problems, tinnitus, disorientation, and even fatalities. There have also been studies that have shown that quinine can cause cardiac arrhythmias.
Some other serious negative reactions that have been associated with using quinine include severe allergic skin reactions, thrombocytopenia and other serious hematological problems, permanent disturbances in vision and hearing, kidney failure, hypoglycemia, and anaphylactic shock.
If you feel like a foot/leg cramp is coming on, put your shoes on before going to bed. Sure, this seems weird and you will most likely wake up with sore heels because you’re not used to the pressure, but the shoes will keep your toes from curling.
This is typically how the spasm will start- the muscles on the bottom of your feet will contract, turning your foot down, which causes the calf muscle to spasm, causing the pain.
Sleeping with shoes on is not the most comfortable treatment, but it’s much better than being awoken by a leg cramp.
Use muscle rubs/creams before going to bed and then exercise the muscles the next morning.
If you do get leg cramps, don’t worry too much. It’s true that they are painful and can cause you to be sore for several days, but they typically do not result in major damage. They do hurt, but it’s not like a heart attack- cramps won’t kill you.
Don’t overdo it. While it’s very true that little to no activity can cause foot/leg cramps if you’re prone to getting them.
However, on the other hand, too much activity can trigger them as well. Make sure that you keep exercise gentle and moderate.