Many adults over the age of 60 experience nighttime, or nocturnal, leg cramps. And for many women, it’s a common occurrence during the menopausal transition, which can make other menopausal symptoms such as insomnia, mood swings, and fatigue even worse.
Nocturnal leg cramps primarily affect the muscles in the calves and feet and can be extremely painful because they typically come on suddenly in the middle of the night and can take several minutes to resolve. They can be caused by any number of factors, including magnesium deficiency. And since most people are deficient in magnesium, it’s definitely worth adding a high-quality magnesium supplement routine to see if your cramps resolve.
However, nocturnal leg cramps can also be caused by certain medications or can be an indication of some other deficiency or condition including dehydration, peripheral vascular disease (PAD), venous insufficiency, lumbar canal stenosis, nerve dysfunction, and more.
9 Strategies to Alleviate Nocturnal Leg Cramps
If you suffer from nighttime leg cramps, you may feel as if you will never get a good night’s sleep. However, there are steps you can take to get to the bottom of the issue, starting with things you can try at home.
Here are some remedies and tactics you can try to alleviate painful nocturnal leg cramps:
- Take a magnesium supplement. Magnesium deficiency is almost always part of the problem, but adding magnesium alone may not completely solve the problem. I would still recommend this as the first line of treatment.
- Add B Vitamins. Some research shows that taking a daily B vitamin complex containing B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 may prevent cramps.
- Try homeopathy. Homeopathy uses very low doses of natural substances to address the body’s imbalances. The theory behind homeopathy is “like cures like” and there are many studies to support its efficacy. You can work with a practitioner or try a formula such as Hyland’s specifically for leg cramps. The best part is homeopathic remedies do not interact with medications or other therapies.
- Address circadian rhythm changes. Age-related circadian rhythm changes can prevent you from getting the sleep you need and make treating nocturnal cramps more difficult. Some ways to improve your circadian rhythm include adding melatonin, spending time in nature, and optimizing your vitamin D
- Get a massage. Deep tissue massages may help relieve and prevent nocturnal leg cramps; however, this is highly individual.
- Stay hydrated. Optimal hydration is important for all =of your bodily functions. Drink (or eat) the equivalent of six to eight glasses of water a day for optimal hydration since dehydration is a principal cause of muscle cramps at all ages.
- Stretch your calves. Gentle stretching before bed can sometimes help prevent nocturnal leg cramps. Try a standing wall stretch. You can also hang your heels off the end of a step, letting them dip below the level of your toes.
- Raid your refrigerator. Some people swear by drinking pickle juice for leg cramps. When pickle juice (specifically the vinegar content) contacts the back of the throat it “turns off” the cramping feeling by blocking motor neuron stimulation that causes muscle cramps. Plain old yellow mustard is another refrigerator cure for some muscle cramps.
- Relax before bed. Doing relaxation exercises before bed can help relax your muscles and your nervous system so you may be able to avoid painful nocturnal leg cramps.
Do you suffer from nocturnal leg cramps? What do you do to alleviate them?