Exercise & Movement Habits
The reason that leg cramps are often worst during the night is due to inactivity.
When you are still for long periods of time, neural activity and blood flow to extremities decreases. This can cause involuntary contractions of motor units . When these motor units continue to fire persistently, it results in painful cramps and spasms.
Another reason that cramps persist is a malfunction of the inhibitory circuits responsible for relaxing muscles.
Because there are multiple points of possible malfunction along the muscle contraction-relaxation pathway, its difficult to determine exactly where the fault occurs.
But in either case, the problem is caused by an underlying nerve malfunction, and exacerbated by periods of inactivity.
As you might have guessed, movement can help relieve and prevent cramps.
But how do you incorporate movement to prevent nighttime leg cramps?
Try doing reverse lunges immediately before crawling into bed to activate and stretch the primary muscles affected by nocturnal leg cramps.
Youll notice in the video below that this exercise stretches the calves on the descent, and mobilizes the quadriceps and hamstrings on each repetition.
Perform 10-15 repetitions per leg, or until you feel a good burn. Stop before you get too exhausted to avoid ramping up your central nervous system . The goal is to activate the muscle groups, not burn them out.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps VS. Restless Legs Syndrome
Could It Be Restless Leg Syndrome
Many people confuse nocturnal leg cramps with another condition known as restless leg syndrome, RLS. Like RLS, leg cramps most often occur at rest. The difference, however, is that leg cramps produce muscle tightening, cramping and pain. With RLS, youll experience a strange and unpleasant urge to move your legs in order to stop a feeling of discomfort, but there isnt usually pain associated with it.
What Causes Leg Cramps At Night
Unfortunately, the specific cause of leg cramps at night has yet to be proven. To determine the specific reason you might be affected by them, its best to speak to your healthcare provider. They can perform physical and laboratory tests to help determine why youre having them.
Nonetheless, there are a few reasons why leg cramps may happen at night, including:
Muscle fatigue or certain types of nerve dysfunction , which can contribute to leg pain
Electrolyte imbalances involving low levels of magnesium, potassium, or calcium
Some medications with side effects that can cause or lead to leg cramps
Well talk about which medications and health conditions can result in leg cramps at night in more detail next.
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Measuring Instruments /outcome Measures
The screening questionnaire was based on a literature review,,,, and focused on demographics, cramp presence and main features, medical history, and treatments. The questionnaire was then evaluated by 8 general practitioners and amended. The final questionnaire was explicit in defining cramps as a painful involuntary muscle contraction when resting, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes.,,,,
The food frequency questionnaire appears to be the best method to evaluate individual dietary intake among general practice patients. In this study, we used the food frequency questionnaire from the French Cohort Study of the European Prospective Investigation into Diet and Cancer Study. The E3N food frequency questionnaire was validated to classify study subjects according to their food or nutrient intake over a 1-year period.,
The beverages explored by E3N food frequency questionnaire are presented in Supplemental Appendix 3, available at . For each participant, we computed the total 1-week volume of alcoholic beverage from the 1-week consumption of each alcoholic beverage presented in Supplemental Appendix 3. Using a food and drink composition table, we converted the volumes to a 1-week mass of alcohol consumed.
Patients were distributed into groups of consumers and nonconsumers of alcoholic beverage. When patients used an alcoholic beverage less than once a week, they were distributed in the nonconsumers group.
Your Quality Of Sleep Is Impacted
Getting a good nights rest is vital for optimum sports performance, and when you drink alcohol your ability to get proper shut-eye plummets. Yes, you might drift off more easily, but research shows that alcohol reduces the amount of REM sleep, meaning youll wake up feeling drowsy and low in energy the next day. Alcohols effect on sleep can also inhibit your bodys production of human growth hormone , which is required for muscle building and repair.
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How To Treat Muscle Problems From Drinking
The only proven remedy for muscle problems from drinking is to reduce or stop alcohol use. If you have minor muscle problems from a single bout of heavy drinking, your muscles may begin to improve within a few days. However, chronic drinking or alcoholism can damage the muscles to the point that it can take months to fix the damage.
Need help to stop drinking alcohol? If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, youre not alone, and your recovery is possible. Our team at The Recovery Village is here to help you every step of the way, whether you decide to pursue alcohol rehab with us or not. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you on your journey to a healthier you.
Vella LD, Cameron-Smith D. Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients, published in August 2010. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. The Truth About Alcohol and Exercise. Reviewed in April 2019. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Barr EB, Camera DM, et al. Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training. PLoS One, published in 2014. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Simon L, Jolley SE, Molina PE. Alcoholic Myopathy: Pathophysiologic Mechanisms and Clinical Implications. Alcohol Research Current Reviews, published in 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019.
Take Apple Cider Vinegar With Honey
Drinking apple cider vinegar reduces soreness, redness, and inflammation on the effective areas caused by cramps as it is Anti- Inflammatory and Analgesic in nature. Apple cider vinegar for leg cramps always works great. Few benefits are-
- Apple cider vinegar contains minerals and calcium that are known to help prevent and relieve cramps.
- Apple cider vinegar is rich in vitamin A, B, and D, and potassium, which are crucial for the excellent functioning of the muscular system.
- For the people suffering from diabetes and blood sugar problems, ACV can create wonders.
How to use:
To make this remedy take two tablespoons of honey plus one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a hot cup of water. Mix it well.
How much to use:
Limit your intake it should not be more than two tablespoons.
Excessive use may erode your tooth enamel. After taking ACV, remember to rinse your mouth with water.
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How Can You Care For Yourself
You may need to try several different ways to stop a muscle cramp before you find what works best for you. Here are some things you can try:
- Stretch and massage the muscle.
- Take a warm shower or bath to relax the muscle. A heating pad placed on the muscle can also help.
- Try using an ice or cold pack. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack.
- Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen , ibuprofen , or naproxen . Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If your doctor prescribes medicines for muscle cramps, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, will often help leg cramps.
Here are some things you can try for a leg cramp:
- Walk around, or jiggle your leg.
- Stretch your calf muscles. You can do this stretch while you sit or stand:
- While sitting, straighten your leg and flex your foot up toward your knee. It may help to place a rolled towel under the ball of your foot and, while holding the towel at both ends, gently pull the towel toward you while keeping your knee straight.
- While standing about 2 ft from a wall, lean forward against the wall. Keep the knee of the affected leg straight and the heel on the ground. Do this while you bend the knee of the other leg.
If you think a medicine is causing muscle cramps:
What Else Might Cause Them
Aside from the conditions mentioned above, there are certain situations and life events that could potentially lead to leg cramps. This includes volume depletion and activity that your legs endure throughout the day.
Its potentially thought that an imbalance of water, other fluids, and electrolytes in the body, also known as volume depletion, could in theory lead to leg cramps at night. In order to function optimally and avoid cramps, muscles need enough fluids and electrolytes. When someone loses a lot of fluids and electrolytes through factors like excessive sweating, having long-lasting diarrhea, or taking a diuretic its possible that they could become volume depleted. Although this is a preliminary thought process among some researchers, there isnt much evidence to prove this relationship.
Separately, depending on the type or amount of movement you do throughout the day may make it more likely for you to develop leg cramps at night. For example, if you sit for long periods of time in an uncomfortable way, live or work on hard surfaces, stand for hours at a stretch, or are typically inactive and older than 60 years, its more likely that you may develop leg cramps.
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Treatment For Muscle Twitching
Treatment usually isnt necessary for muscle twitching. The spasms tend to subside without treatment within a few days. However, you may need treatment if one of the more serious conditions is causing your muscle twitching. Depending on the particular diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe certain medications to ease symptoms. These drugs include:
- corticosteroids, such as betamethasone and prednisone
- muscle relaxants, such as carisoprodol and cyclobenzaprine
- neuromuscular blockers, such as incobotulinumtoxin A and rimabotulinumtoxin B
Muscle twitching isnt always preventable. However, there are some things you can do to lower your risk:
Is Cream Of Tartar Good For Leg Cramps
Consuming 1/4 1/2 tsp of Cream of Tartar each day will provide up to 10% of an essential mineral. Deficiency in potassium can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, tingling and numbness plus mood changes. A 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar is around 3% of your daily requirement. An alternative to cream of tartar is LoSalt.
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Does Drinking Alcohol Cause Leg Cramps
Global consumption of alcoholic beverages has been linked to nocturnal leg cramps, according to researchers. A 6-to-1 odds ratio was associated with those who drank alcohol at least once per week. Leg cramps are a common nocturnal ailment that affects 5 percent of the population. In this study, the odds of leg cramps were not linearly correlated with the amount of alcohol consumed.
When To See A Doctor
Leg cramps are not usually a cause for concern, but sometimes they can indicate an underlying problem. If cramps are severe or happen frequently, it may be a good idea to seek medical advice.
The doctor may carry out tests to try to identify an underlying cause. If the person is taking medications that can trigger cramps, the doctor may adjust the dose or change the drug.
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Why Do I Get Leg Cramps After Drinking Alcohol
Consumption of alcohol leads to loss of balance and coordination, making the muscles overwork whether you drink small or large amounts. Clinical trials show that the brain as well as the body suffers the effects of drinking alcoholic beverages for up to 3 days.
Muscle cramps occur when a muscle involuntarily tightens up and goes in to spasms, setting off acute pain.
What Questions Might My Healthcare Provider Ask About My Leg Cramps
To help your healthcare provider diagnose you, they may ask the following questions about your leg cramps:
- When do you experience the leg cramps?
- How often do your leg cramps occur?
- How would you describe your leg cramps?
- How long do the leg cramps last?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- What known medical conditions do you have?
- Are you concerned about medical conditions that may be causing your leg cramps?
- Are you having any symptoms of another medical condition?
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Ways To Relieve And Prevent Leg Cramps At Night
The good news is that although they can be painful, nocturnal leg cramps arent typically serious. While it can be a bit of trial and error, here are seven home remedies you can try to help relieve discomfort and potentially stop painful wake-up calls.
- Stretch your hamstring and calf muscles during the day and before you go to bed.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day and watch your alcohol and caffeine consumption.
- Try mild exercises before bed, such as walking or riding the stationary bike for a few minutes.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough proper sleep.
- Take a warm bath or shower to soothe tight muscles.
- Wear supportive shoes with proper arch and ankle support.
- Keep sheets and blankets loose around your feet so you arent as restricted to move around at night.
If none of these remedies work, youre continuing to have severe persistent cramping and its impacting your sleep and daily function, call your doctor, Dr. Lee-Iannotti said. Nocturnal leg cramps shouldnt impair your general well-being.
Nocturnal leg cramps, or charley horses, are a real nightmare, but dont let them get you down. Find relief with a Banner Health specialist, by visiting bannerhealth.com.
When Should I Get My Leg Cramps Treated At The Emergency Department
Go to the emergency department if a leg cramp lasts longer than 10 minutes or becomes unbearably painful. Also go if a leg cramp happens after you touch a substance that could be poisonous or infectious. For example, if you have a cut in your skin that touches dirt, you could get a bacterial infection like tetanus. Exposure to mercury, lead or other toxic substances should also be reason to go to the emergency department.
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When Does Alcoholic Myopathy Occur
Approximately one-third of individuals who drink heavily on a regular basis will experience alcoholic myopathy, making it far more common than some people might think. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews indicates that about between 0.5 percent and 2 percent of individuals struggling with alcoholism experience acute alcoholic myopathy, while 200 individuals in 100,000 of the general population develop chronic alcoholic myopathy more than any type of inherited myopathy.
Acute alcoholic myopathy can occur after consuming more than 4-5 alcoholic beverages in one sitting . On the other hand, those who develop chronic myopathy generally do so slowly over the course of several weeks or even months of regular, heavy drinking, gradually losing muscle strength. In some cases, muscle twitching, pain, or atrophy will also occur with chronic alcoholic myopathy. Chronic myopathy can also result in occasional bouts of acute myopathy, with muscle pain and weakness and darkened urine occurring after the person binges on alcohol.
But Wine Might Actually Be Good For Your Gut
This is what you have been wanting to hear wine is actually good as well.
More recent studies have been conducted and show that wine, particularly red wine, has a prebiotic effect. This just means that it promotes the growth of good gut bacteria.
Red wine made from grapes is high in bio-active compounds called polyphenols, which besides promoting good gut bacteria, also lead to increased antimicrobial activity against bad bacteria.
Six separate studies came to this same conclusion that red wine polyphenols benefit gut bacteria according to a review in the Food Research International journal.
One of the studies that was mentioned in the review came from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this particular study there were 10 healthy volunteers that consumed red wine on a daily basis. After consumption for 4 weeks there were significant changes in gut microbiota found. Seven different types of bacteria showed large increases and along with this they also fount decreases in blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol.
Why This Is So Important
Gut bacteria plays a very important role in digestion. Without a healthy gut microbiota your digestion would seriously suffer and diarrhea as well as constipation would be much more frequent.
But besides that a healthy gut microbiota is important for overall health. It also effects other bodily systems such as the immune system, which in-turn impacts a lot more.
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What Medications Can Be Used To Treat Leg Cramps At Night
When leg cramps at night are a symptom or complication of a different medical condition, treating the condition itself may help improve pain caused by them.
Before starting any new medication or supplement, its important to speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider about your specific situation. If you have a medical condition, they may be able to change your other medications to make your overall treatment more effective. They can also recommend a specific product based on your situation and medical history.
If you dont have a medical condition that may make it more likely for you to develop leg cramps at night, there are a number of possible medications and over-the-counter supplements that preliminary evidence suggests might be helpful for your symptoms.
Its worthwhile to note that none of these medications have strong evidence regarding their effectiveness in treating leg cramps at night. These medications and supplements can include:
In addition, quinine, a medication FDA-approved to treat malaria, actually has some supporting evidence for treating leg cramps at night. However, due to a high number of risks and side effects, the FDA warned against using quinine for this purpose back in 2010.
If youre interested in taking medication to help relieve pain caused by leg cramps at night, its recommended to speak to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.