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Leg cramps are a common annoyance, but more so when they cause the person suffering from one to wake from a good night’s sleep. These leg cramps are called nocturnal leg cramps and thankfully, most can be avoided without medication. So why do they happen?
Leg cramps, oftentimes referred to as ‘charley horses’, are muscle spasms that can last from a matter of a few seconds to several minutes. They occur in the calf muscle as well as the thigh muscles, and even on the bottom of the foot, awakening the sufferer at night.
Nocturnal leg cramps affect 50 to 60 percent of adults. Those most likely to suffer from them include older adults, women, and pregnant women.
They are more likely than most to have a calcium and magnesium deficiency. Older adults’ digestive system doesn’t absorb vitamins and minerals as well as it did in the past. Pregnant women almost always have a deficiency because the baby receives much of the mother’s share of the minerals in her food.
Today’s more popular food choices don’t have near the amount of calcium and magnesium needed by the body. Studies show that 78 percent of the population is deficient in these minerals. Calcium/Magnesium supplements do help with leg cramps.
Some of the cheaper Cal-Mag supplements are made from crushed limestone. These are not very likely to be absorbed and used by the body. Look for the words ‘Cytrate’, ‘Malate’, and ‘Clycinate’ after the mineral name. These forms of minerals are easier for the body to absorb.
Sitting for long periods of time also increases the risk of leg cramps. It is recommended that if you are sitting most of the time, get up and walk for a few minutes every hour.
The same advice goes to those who are standing for much of the day. This helps with circulation and keeps the leg muscles from becoming too stiff and tight.
Overexerting the leg muscles can cause nocturnal leg cramps. This applies to athletes as well as ordinary folks who go overboard on a yard project. This condition is usually accompanied by dehydration, which also exacerbates any muscle issue. Fluids keep muscle cells hydrated and relaxed.
To treat or prevent leg cramps at night, follow these suggestions. Make it a habit to allocate a few minutes, preferably before bedtime, to stretch the leg and foot muscles. Massage will help with blood circulation to those tight, tired muscles.
A warm bath before bed will loosen and relax all muscles, making them less likely to spasm during the night. Take a Calcium and Magnesium supplement in the evening, too. There are even night boots that can be worn to keep the foot in proper position if foot or calf cramps are a recurring problem.
If slumber is shattered by a leg cramp, pull your toes up so they are pointing at the ceiling. Some recommend getting up and walking on your heels. See a doctor if there is leg swelling or if conditions don’t improve with self-care.
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