Get Rid of Nighttime Leg Cramps

9 Strategies to Alleviate Pain

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Preventative Medicine Self-healing

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. Get a massage. Deep tissue massages may help relieve and prevent nocturnal leg cramps; however, this is highly individual.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.  
  1. 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.
  1. 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?

Last Updated: September 20, 2023

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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  1. kathy moore
    8 months ago

    I started working with an Aryuvedic doctor in June. I have known her for 30 years. She recommended two types of magnesium, a roll on and a transdermal cream from the company she works with (all Aryuvedic) Chandika.com. As a multiple cancer survivor, I am using many of their products recommended by Dr. Lisa Raskin but magnesium was specifically for leg cramps which have drastically decreased. I also have Hylands and have used pickle juice.

  2. pei
    9 months ago

    I use the Betteryou magnesium body spray which is more absorbent than the ones taken by mouth. They also come in creams and gels for the skin. The mineral are available in powder form which can be mix into many ways like water, soup, smoothie, porridge, and other liquid base foods.

  3. Renate Griger-Martin
    9 months ago

    Thank you Chritiane Northrup. I am 60 years old.To avoid muscle cramps during the nigth I practise yoga.

  4. Mary Lee Webb
    9 months ago

    I have lumbar spinal stenosis and have nighttime leg cramps. This has gone on for years and years and I am aware of every treatment. I am currently trying massage of my calves and feet with castor oil and peppermint oil added. I’m doing this morning and night. It is a new treatment and I believe it is reducing the frequency and severity of cramps.

  5. susan
    9 months ago

    What brand and form and amount of magnesium? Is a liquid form better? thanks!

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