Did you wake up again last night because of a leg cramp? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 60% of adults experience nighttime leg cramps.
They usually occur in the calf and foot, but some of us get them in our hamstrings, too. Adults of any age are prone to leg cramps at night, but a recent study shows they’re more common as we age. People over the age of 50 get them more often.
What Causes Them?
Maybe it’s chairs. Would it surprise you to know that medical science isn’t quite sure? There are plenty of theories, though, and most are being studied. Some researchers believe that our modern lifestyle is catching up with us. They point out that our ancestors spent much more time in a squatting position – before chairs were invented – and that stretches our leg tendons and muscles.
It could be our beds. If the invention of the chair is not to blame, other researchers think it might be our beds. Here’s the logic behind that. When we lie in bed, our foot tends to be in what’s known as the “plantar flexion” position. Our toes are pointing away from us. This shortens the calf muscles. If your foot rests in this position for long periods of time throughout the night, even a small movement can trigger a cramp.
It might be the weather. Still other researchers hypothesize that it has to do with the weather. Research shows that leg cramp frequency increases in mid-July and is lowest in mid-January. What’s the connection? Cramps are actually caused by nerves – not by muscles. Your body produces more vitamin D during summer months because of exposure to the sun and longer days. Nerves need vitamin D for health and repair. So, it’s possible that we’re actually just feeling growing pains as neural repair peaks and triggers cramps.
We also exercise more during warmer weather, and dehydration or physical activity might cause cramps. It also could be related to our diets.
How to Get Rid of Leg Cramps
Consult a medical professional, such as a chiropractor, and ask them about any prescribed or over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Some may have a diuretic effect, while others – including certain asthma drugs – actually do have the side effect of causing leg cramps.
You may also have a deficiency in either magnesium or calcium. And it’s also been shown that pregnancy is associated with nighttime leg cramps. It’s important to look closely at your diet, and it’s also wise to make sure you’re drinking enough water.
What can you do for temporary relief if you wake up with a leg cramp? Stretch it out. It’ll help get past the pain. Try a standing calf stretch if the cramp is in your foot or lower leg. Make an appointment to see us, and we’ll show you how to put an end to those cramps.