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What to Do for Night-Time Leg Cramps Naturally?


Hi Vanessa,

Also known as charley horse, legs cramps at night are sudden uncontrolled spasms, or contractions of muscles in the calf that can last for a few seconds to a few minutes. While most nocturnal leg cramps (night cramps) are usually harmless and not a serious health concern, they can be quite unbearably painful and disrupt sleep.

For the record, nocturnal leg cramps is not the same as restless leg syndrome, a disorder characterized by an intense urge to move the legs, particularly when trying to sleep. Restless leg syndrome does not cause cramping or pain.

Although no one knows exactly what causes nighttime leg cramps, there are a number of possible causes of leg cramps pain.



Possible Causes of  Leg Cramps and What Can You Do to Prevent It

1. The first thing you want to do is to increase fluid intake. Dehydration can make you prone to cramping in your legs. Drink plenty of water and other fluids in the form of soups and juices to avoid dehydration.

Caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea, or alcohol (some people experience painful leg cramps after beer consumption) don't contribute positively towards your fluid consumption. These drinks have diuretic effects, meaning they make you urinate more frequently so you become more dehydrated.

If you're active in sports, make sure to drink fluid before, during and after your workout. Sports drink such as Powerade or Gatorade will replenish fluid and electrolytes that may be lost through sweating and urination.



2. Deficiency of minerals (or low level of minerals) in the blood – calcium, potassium, sodium, and magnesium – can be a reason for frequent leg cramps. Therefore, it makes good sense to eat a healthy diet that's rich in these nutrients to significantly help leg cramps.

You want to consume foods such as bananas, strawberries and kiwi (potassium), pumpkin and sunflower seeds (magnesium), dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese (calcium). All of these foods provide you with the electrolytes/minerals that are good for leg cramps and prevent leg muscle cramping.

Other foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium include beets, and fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna and snapper.



3. Wearing ill-fitting footwear for a long time can be a cause of cramps in the legs and feet. Shoes that are too tight will constrict blood circulation and can cause your calf muscles to tense up and cramp.

Wear good, comfortable shoes that provide proper arch support whether you're running, walking or standing for long periods of time. Avoid high-heels, narrow pointy-toed shoes, non-padded sandals, or any poorly-fitting shoes.

Additionally, those with flat feet, overweight people and older folks are more susceptible to leg cramps.



4. Leg cramps can also occur if you overuse your leg muscles – getting too much exercise, or sudden increase in physical activity. The best way to avoid getting leg cramps is to warm up and stretch your muscles before and after exercise.

Aside from that, standing for a long time on concrete flooring, prolonged sitting in the same position, or putting your legs in awkward positions while sleeping may also contribute to leg cramping.



5. If you're taking prescription drugs, you need to be aware that leg cramps can also happen due to certain medicines such as antipsychotics, oral contraceptive pills, diuretics, statins, and steroids.




Natural Leg Cramp Pain (Charley Horse) Relief

1. For quick nocturnal leg cramp relief, get out of your bed and walk around, or jiggle the cramped leg.



2. Stretching your calf muscles gently and slowly will relax muscles, which in turn helps relieve the cramps. This simple exercise loosens tight calf muscles, and it can be done either standing up or seated down.

Stand facing a wall, about 2-3 feet away (about an arm's length). Place both hands on the wall to keep your balance. Put your uncramped leg about a foot from the wall and bend that knee slightly. Lean into the wall. Stretch your cramped leg out as far as you can, while keeping your heel down, and toes pointing to wall. Hold in this position for about 15-30 seconds and release. Repeat 2-3 times and leg cramp should go away after a few minutes.


To stretch calf muscles while sitting, straighten your legs and flex your foot towards your knee. Grab your toes and pull them upward. You can also get someone to push downward on your thigh above the knee.

Or, 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 knee straight. You should feel your calf muscles stretching or the exercise isn't effective. Stay in this position for a few minutes. It can be quite painful especially if you're more inflexible than most people.




Home Remedies for Leg Cramps while Sleeping

If it still doesn't help to get rid of cramping, use these simple home remedies to relieve leg cramps.

Try massaging the affected calf with your hands, or rub an ice pack on the cramped muscle for no more than 10 minutes. Alternatively, take a hot shower or a warm bath, or a heating pad to stop leg cramp.

Nocturnal leg cramps can be prevented if you stretch your leg muscles for a couple of minutes before you go to bed each night. Riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before bedtime also helps prevent leg cramps during sleep.

Some people believe that yellow mustard (Dijon mustard won't work) gives them instant leg cramp relief while others say tonic water (quinine), chamomile tea, vinegar, and cramp bark are natural cures for leg cramps.

Acupressure is also one of the best home remedies known to help relieve pain from leg cramps quickly. Simply press firmly on the center of the upper lip, pinching it between your thumb and  index finger.

Tight sheets and bedding can restrict movement, resulting in leg and foot cramps. Leaving bed linens untucked at the bottom to allow movement is the simplest way to prevent leg cramp and pain.

If severe cramping persists, it's extremely important that you seek advice from a doctor to rule out underlying disorder such as hypothyroidism, peripheral artery disease, diabetes, or chronic kidney failure.





By Diane Hanson

I've been dealing with this problem for about 2 months now. I tend to get severe lower leg cramps at night while sleeping. The cramp pain last for several minutes and travel from my calf up to my thigh. Are there any natural ways to relieve and stop leg cramps quickly? I've been to the doctor and he said everything's ok. I'm a healthy 38 year old female with no blood pressure problem and not pregnant. Any insight would be helpful. – Vanessa, Connecticut.

natural home remedies for leg cramps at night

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