Leg cramps can affect people of any age and at any time of life. The causes for this common condition is often unknown, although some medications and diseases can often be to blame,as can dehydration.
The most common types of night cramps occur in the lower leg although other areas of the body may be affected. Cramping in the calf just below and behind the knee can be very painful, largely due to the size of the muscle. In some cases the person concerned may also get cramps in the smaller muscles of their feet of in the arch of the foot.
The cramping sensation is due to a muscle spasm and as the muscles contract too hard they lock the leg in place and send a shooting pain up the body to the brain.
Muscle cramps at night can last for just a few short seconds or several minutes, in severe cases the cramp may last for well over ten minutes causing extreme discomfort for the affected party.
Muscles are made up of fibrous strands and although you may associate cramp with something professional athletes get, they are actually more likely to occur when resting as the slow and fast twitch fibres, curl up and tighten. This process is most likely to happen when you are in bed, hence the more commonly known name, night cramps.
Anybody who has suffered with the condition will know that an attack can happen at any time of the night, and that the problem does not just stop with the cramp, as there is also a period of recovery time required, where the muscle feels tender, in some cases for up to 24 hours.
Causes of night cramps
As previously mentioned the actual cause of night cramps may be unknown, some professionals believe that a muscle that is already in a shortened position and stimulated to contract may cause the cramp.
Medical experts have also attributed several factors which may cause night cramps, they are:
- Medicine – Some pre-prescribed medicines can cause cramps as a side effect such as water tablets (thiazide diuretics and loop diuretics), salbutamol, statins, lithium and phenothiazines.
- Over-exertion of muscle – Those that partake in vigorous exercise during the evening and then relax too quickly may be at risk.
- Dehydration – If the bodies water levels run low then the muscles do not work as efficiently and may be prone to cramp.
- Pregnancy – During the latter stages of pregnancy the dispersion of fluid and salts within the body paired with the extra weight may put pressure on the legs which can cause cramp.
- Poor circulation – Poor circulation or peripheral arterial disease(narrowing of the arteries in the leg) can result in night cramps.
- Excess Alcohol – Alcohol is a diuretic and can cause dehydration
Rare causes include – cirrhosis of the liver, sarcoidosis and lead poisoning.
Treatment for night cramps
The first thing to remember with regards to night cramps is that the condition might just be a one off event, if this is the case and you do not experience the cramps often, no treatment is required. Your cramps in this case could have just been down to fatigue or one of the causes mentioned earlier.
If you are frequently suffering from night cramps then the first thing to do is to consult your doctor. By making your GP aware of any medication you are currently taking you could help to identify the problem.
It may sound simple but as we have previously mentioned, the cramps are caused by the shortening and over-contraction of the muscles in the lower leg, the best treatment therefore is to stretch your muscles.
A simple exercise could be to stand shoulder width apart facing a wall or supporting structure, stand around 70-80 cm back from the wall, then with your heels flat on the floor, bend forward to lean on the wall, make sure to keep your feet flat, you should feel the stretch on the calves.
Hold this pose as long as you can, for up to five minutes, repeat this process three times a day.
Some research studies have suggested that the position of the legs when sleeping can make a big difference to those who suffer from night cramps.
How can Adjustamatic help?
At Adjustamatic our beds and chairs are proven to offer both a relaxing and secure atmosphere to sit and sleep in, by choosing one of our easy to use products you can rest assured that not only will you be receiving a quality piece of furniture but also something that can help to alleviate the pain of your medical condition.
Following on from surveys conducted by universities, industry professionals and medical experts, relating to the sleeping position and its affect on night cramps, Adjustamatic are proud to offer a selection of beds with a large range of positions which can make you more comfortable and your night’s sleep more enjoyable.
We also offer a range of massage therapy beds which can help prevent muscle cramps at night by gently relaxing your muscles while you sleep. Our beds and chairs using the proven vibration therapy technology are designed to offer pain relief from a variety of aches, pains and cramps.