Do you have a problem with leg cramps during the night?
Do these cramps cause pain, and disturb your sleep?
If this sounds familiar you are not alone. Up to 33% of the general population over the age of 50 experience nocturnal leg cramps. A further 20% of these people also experience these cramps during the day. Nocturnal leg cramps are defined as ‘episodes of painful involuntary muscle contractions of the leg, calf, and foot, which occur at night and which recur at sporadic intervals’.
The cause of these cramps largely remains a mystery. Traditionally it is believed that the cramps are as a result of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and lactic acid build up. However, new research now suggests that a more likely cause is prolonged sitting, poor or abnormal posture, and poor flexibility.
Although some medications have a moderate effect on the cramps, they generally have the negative consequence of side effects. Alternatively, research published in the Journal of Physiotherapy has shown that a program of calf and hamstring stretches before bed can reduce the frequency and intensity of cramps. Your physiotherapist can help with the implementation of such a program. So, if you are sick of losing sleep at night due to your cramps, and you want a safe and time efficient management strategy give your physiotherapist a call.
Hallegraeff, J. M., Van der Schans, C. P., de Ruiter, R., de Graff, M. H. G. (2012). ‘Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults: a randomised trial’. Journal of Physiotherapy, 58 (1), 17-22.