Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden contractions of the lower leg and foot muscles. They often awaken you from sleep. The calf muscles are most often involved.
|The Calf Muscles
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The specific cause of nocturnal leg cramps is unknown. These cramps may be related to imbalances in local muscle chemistry. Many activities and diseases are associated with nocturnal leg cramps including:
- Overexertion of the muscles
- Prolonged standing on hard surfaces
- Prolonged sitting
- Blood pressure medications
- Statins taken to lower cholesterol
Those over 50 are at increased risk for leg cramps.
The following factors also increase your chance of developing nocturnal leg cramps:
The main symptom is sudden calf or foot cramps.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. If no specific cause can be found, treatment options include the following:
- When cramps occur, stretch your leg muscles.
- Standing on the affected leg and walking often stops the cramping.
- Massage and hot or cold treatments help the muscles relax.
No medication has proven to treat nocturnal leg cramps. Quinine, while often effective for reducing the frequency and intensity of cramps, has a significant risk of major allergic reactions. The other prescription medications carry risks as well. So, they are not generally recommended. They may be used in severe cases.
- Quinine sulfate
- Muscle relaxants
- Calcium channel blockers
To reduce your chance of getting nocturnal leg cramps, take the following steps:
during the day and just before going to bed.
- Exercise feet and legs regularly.
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes.
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Women's Health Matters
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