Most adults have experienced some type of leg cramps in the middle of the night. Sometimes called “Charley horse,” leg cramps can be painful and keep you up at night.
The following article from the Farmer’s Almanac tells what you can do when you experience these painful nocturnal annoyances.
I was told by a friend that drinking apple cider vinegar would ease the pain, but it gave me such heartburn, even though I diluted it, that I didn’t dare drink it again. Someone else suggested drinking pickle juice. This was still a bit sour, but since I like pickles, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the vinegar.
My doctor suggested stretching my calfs and feet before I go to bed, and between that and the pickle juice, they seem to have subsided. However, it might not work for everyone. Read on, and find out what might work best for you!
WHAT CAUSES LEG CRAMPS AT NIGHT?
Sixty percent of adults say they’ve experienced nocturnal leg or foot cramps at some time in their lives.
Pregnant women and older people tend to suffer nighttime leg cramps more often than other groups, but medical experts say there’s often no clear explanation of why these nighttime leg cramps occur, listing many conditions that might bring one on, including:
• Hard exercise during the day
• Electrolyte imbalance
• Neurological, neuromuscular, or endocrine disorders
• Lumbar stenosis
• Standing for long periods on concrete floors
• Sitting all day in a cramped position
• A side effect of some drugs
LEG CRAMP REMEDIES
When a cramp startles you from sleep, here are 5 tips to manage the problem:
1. Take a few breaths and try to stay calm. Panicking may cause you to tighten the affected muscles even further and prolong or intensify the cramp.
2. If the cramp is in your arch or calf muscles, forcefully extend your toes toward your head and hold the stretch until the cramp subsides. This will release the tension so that the muscles can relax. You may need to sit up, bend over, and pull your toes forward with your hands.
3. If the cramp is in the back of your thigh, roll out of bed, bend at the waist, supporting yourself on your forearms, and keep bending forward until you feel the cramped muscles stretching out. Hold the stretch until the cramp abates.
4. I’ve had good luck using a towel or a woven stretching strap to help straighten out especially vicious hamstring cramps.
5. When the acute pain subsides, get up and walk around a bit to bring oxygen to the cramped muscles. A cold pack or hot pack may help. I like the long, rectangular “beanbags” (cloth sheaths filled with beans or other seeds) heated for a couple of minutes in the microwave and wrapped around sore muscles.
HOW TO PREVENT LEG CRAMPS
If you’re prone to leg cramps at night, these 6 tips may help cramps from happening again:
1. A lot of uphill walking/running or stair-climbing shortens the back muscles and the muscles and tendons at the back of the legs, making them more likely to cramp later. Focus attention on stretching these muscle groups after a hilly workout.
2. Go for a deep-tissue therapeutic massage with an experienced practitioner. Ask her/him to teach you the techniques for the muscle groups in the legs and feet, so that you can work the knots out before they become disabling cramps.
3. Loosen the bedcovers so that they don’t press your feet down and shorten the muscles of your arches, encouraging them to cramp.
4. Drink when you feel thirsty, especially after exercise. Don’t overdo it. Tea, coffee, smoothies, fruit, and vegetables all contribute to your daily fluid needs.
5. Eat a variety of potassium- and magnesium-rich foods every day. Good choices: black beans, kidney beans, nuts and seeds, potatoes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens (especially beet greens), bananas, and other fruit.
6. Stay flexible with a regular stretching.
Here are two common stretches:
Basic calf stretch
Here’s how to do it:
• Stand with your palms placed against a wall, with arms stretched out
• Step back with leg of affected calf
• Lean forward on the other leg and push against the wall
• You should feel a stretch in your calf muscle and the back of the leg.
Do this stretch while you sit:
• Keep legs outstretched in front of you
• Point the toes of your affected foot at the ceiling so that the leg is engaged
• Take a towel or necktie and wrap it around your foot, holding it with both hands
• Lift the leg slightly until you feel a good stretch
• Just stretching the affected muscles three times a week will help immensely. Hold stretch for at least 10 seconds, working up to 30 seconds. And perform each stretch 3 to 5 times.