Understanding Nocturnal Leg and Calf Cramps: Causes, Remedies and Treatments
What causes night cramps?
Cramps are not phenomena reserved for athletes. You have already experienced intense muscle contractions that woke you up in the middle of the night: you are probably the victim of night cramps. These can be frequent and very painful, to the point of altering the quality of sleep. In this article, we explain the causes and we give you the solutions to make them disappear.
To better understand the causes of cramps, here is what they correspond to:
It is an involuntary, painful and temporary contraction of the muscle. It is indeed a brief phenomenon, which lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes maximum. The cramps mainly affect the muscles of the leg and those of the calf. They can occur in healthy individuals and are more common with age or during the third trimester of pregnancy. Night cramps are most often benign, but can be debilitating if they are too frequent because the quality of sleep will be strongly impacted.
Of course, there are different types of cramp:
- Night cramps are said to be idiopathic , they concern the calf muscles and cause plantar flexion of the foot. They should not be confused with restless legs syndrome, which is a chronic disorder with the irrepressible urge to move the legs, accompanied by unpleasant sensations in the lower limbs when at rest.
- The second type of cramp is that related to the effort . These cramps appear during the effort following an overload of calcium, necessary for the contraction of the muscle or consecutively to this one, because of its intensity.
- Cramps can also be symptomatic . This means that they are secondary to a disease, most often endocrine (diabetes, hyper or hypothyroidism, etc.) or even muscular (dystonia, tetany).
But then what are the famous idiopathic cramps called nocturnal cramps due to?
The causes are not clearly identified by the medical profession, the appearance of night cramps would be multifactorial and several hypotheses exist on this subject. The most likely cause would be a shortening of tendons and muscle fibers that appears with age, lack of stretching, sedentary lifestyle, which would explain why their frequency increases as we age.
Deficiencies in trace elements (potassium, chlorine, sodium, magnesium, calcium) are also a cause of night cramps because these elements are essential for good nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
Dehydration also promotes cramps because the absorption and transport of trace elements within the body requires a sufficient quantity of liquid. Standing in bad positions can cause significant muscle fatigue which can cause cramps and this can be aggravated by certain factors causing more intense muscle stress such as wearing high heels.
Medications that cause a decrease in mineral salts are responsible, for the reasons cited above, for night cramps. Among these, we mainly find statins, laxatives or diuretic drugs.
What are the tips to apply to relieve and reduce night cramps?
During the cramp, the goal is to stretch the muscle to stop the contraction. To do this, you have to put your foot in flexion, point up, then pull it towards you by placing your hands on the sole of your foot. You can also train the relaxation of the muscle by heat . To do this, simply rub the muscle vigorously or massage it, you can use a massage gel and a thermal cushion for more comfort. It is also possible to massage with essential oils (lavandin, rosemary and oily macerate of arnica) to relieve the cramp quickly. Be careful however, if you are pregnant, the use of essential oil is contraindicated.
The challenge is to prevent the causes of the cramp. It is therefore important to hydrate well and maintain a sufficient supply of trace elements: The Hydratis solution is an effective way to stay hydrated while drinking water enriched with trace elements: potassium , magnesium , sodium chloride . Thanks to lozenges to dilute in a glass of water, enjoy an ultra-hydrating drink and the muscle and neuronal benefits of minerals.
For elderly people who are often cramp-prone, Hydratis has designed the 50+ range , which comes in the form of a sachet to be diluted in water and which further promotes muscle recovery while adapting to the physiological constraints of age, for ever more effective hydration.
Diet also has a role to play in preventing night cramps. Opt for a balanced diet rich in minerals. They are present in large numbers in fruits and vegetables, which are to be consumed in a varied way. Without forgetting to drink enough throughout the day, with a minimum intake of 1.5 liters of water per day.
During the night, it is possible to elevate your legs , using a cushion to allow better blood circulation which will prevent the onset of cramps.
Finally, it is recommended to avoid aggravating factors such as cold and stimulants (tobacco, alcohol, caffeine) because they promote muscle contraction and therefore the intensity of cramps.