In addition to causing you searing pain, leg muscle cramps can wake you up in the middle of the night and disturb your sleep. Research has found that these spasms tend to increase during the summer season. Most of the time, this is caused by dehydration and the loss of electrolytes, which can lead to spasms. Toxins from smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can also affect the balance of electrolytes in your body and increase the likelihood of cramping.
This terrible pain associated with leg cramps can also occur due to muscle fatigue or mechanical stress on the muscles, especially if you stand for long periods or walk on hard surfaces. Sometimes the cramping is triggered by medication such as diuretics, statins or beta-blockers. Discuss alternative medications with your doctor to lessen this side effect. If the pain worsens and the problem continues to the point of debilitation, it’s best to consult with your physician as the condition could indicate a more serious problem.
While there are prescription drugs available, if the problem isn’t persistent, you can cure these aches with some home remedies. If you prefer to turn to the pharmacy for solutions, over the counter analgesic balms or menstrual cramp medication like Midol or Pamprin are effective. One to avoid is quinine, a commonly prescribed remedy, which is extracted from the bark of Cinchona, a rainforest tree. The FDA has found serious risks with this cure as large dosages can prove fatal.
Drink water or Gatorade before bed. Heavy exercise and low fluid intake can cause dehydration. Doctors recommend drinking water or electrolyte filled drinks like Gatorade before retiring to sleep. Water naturally relieves cramps and hydrates the muscles, while the mineral filled drinks ensure your electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, are not depleted.
Place a bar of soap in bed. This strange old wives’ tale is surprisingly effective and medical authorities even endorse it. Place a bar of soap between the mattress and bottom sheet. Experts speculate that it might be effective due to the emissions from the soap, or the gentle pressure that it puts on the muscle when you randomly toss and turn during the night.
Stretching exercises. You don’t need to do a whole workout before bed, but 3 minutes of stretching can prevent mid-sleep leg cramp disturbances. You can try a standing calf stretch. Place one leg in front of the other and bend the knee while extending the back leg. You should feel a relieving pull in the muscle. If you are prone to cramping in the upper leg, try a hamstring stretch. Put your feet together and do a standing forward bend at the hips. Hold this pose for 20 seconds.
Potassium and magnesium. When your body has a mineral deficiency, it makes it difficult for the heart to push enough blood down to your legs. Magnesium regulates the muscle and nerve functions, blood pressure and blood sugar levels; while potassium has a similar function but also plays a part in water regulation. Combined together, these two minerals can encourage effective prevention against cramping and certain foods are rich in one or the other. Bananas are an easy and healthy source of potassium while magnesium can be found in nuts, lentils, and quinoa. It should be noted that if you have kidney problems, extra magnesium can exacerbate the condition.