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Helpful Tips for Nighttime Leg Cramps

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“A leg cramp is really just a muscle contracting and tightening spontaneously,” says emergency medicine specialist Dr. Scott Dresden of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, United States, “The problem is that it can be very painful for several seconds or even several minutes.”

Nocturnal cramps can affect anyone, at any age, but they’re more common in older adults. It may sound a bit surprising to you that one’s sleeping position can actually induce such cramps. Some studies suggest that leg cramps can be triggered by plantar flexion. Overworked muscles resulting from a hard workout are also a possible cause of nighttime leg cramps. It is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience pregnancy leg cramps, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Some recommended preventive tips include proper hydration, supportive footwear, and stretching as well as calcium and magnesium supplements if one’s physician so advises.

Let’s look at some of the things you can do at home to relieve and prevent a leg cramp. Massaging your leg is an effective way to relax tense muscles. Stretching is another good way to alleviate and prevent leg cramps. Alternatively, you may try walking on your heels when leg cramps suddenly strike. By doing that, it can engage the muscles opposite to your calf, thus allowing it to relax. Other ways to help relax muscles include applying heat to the affected leg. Similarly, taking a warm bath or shower may also help loosen your calf.

In addition to massage, you may also try to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. If you're sweating a lot during exercise, make sure you replenish yourself with drinks that are rich in electrolytes, such as coconut water or orange juice. If you notice that you tend to sleep in a plantar flexion position, try sleeping on your back and place a pillow behind your knees.

Overall, muscle cramps usually go away on their own and are rarely serious enough that they need urgent medical attention. However, if cramps happen often and are affecting your sleep quality, don't hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to arrange for a further checkup to rule out underlying conditions.
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