Can cause stress and cramps in the legs
Leg cramps at night: causes & home remedies - what helps against it?
Leg cramps mainly occur at night or during exercise.This can be due to physical deficiency symptoms, but also serious illnesses. We explain where the muscle spasms come from and what you can do about them.
Many people suffer from leg cramps on a regular basis. Most often they occur during the day when doing sports - running or swimming - or at night. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and older people more likely than younger ones.
What hurts so much is the muscle that involuntarily contracts and shortens. Instead of immediately relaxing again, it remains in its rigid, hardened state for some time. A cramp usually only lasts a few seconds, but sometimes a few minutes. Stretching or a massage can help relax the muscles.
How does a cramp develop?
When our muscles work, the fibers in the muscle contract - this is also known as contraction. It is controlled by the brain via the nerves. If this signal transmission is disturbed, the muscle involuntarily contracts. Muscle cramps can occur all over the body, not just in the calves. The legs, feet, and toes are most commonly affected.
Why do calf cramps often occur at night?
The fact that calf cramps often occur at night is due to the fact that the calf muscles are moved more frequently during the day and are thus automatically stretched. In addition, when you are awake you react to signs of a cramp with spontaneous stretching movements, which prevents a larger cramp. At night, however, a calf cramp hits the body unprepared. Affected people only wake up when the muscle is already completely hardened. Being roused from sleep by a cramp at night is therefore particularly painful.
Possible causes of leg cramps
1st cause: lifestyle
If the calf muscles are cramped, there are usually harmless causes behind it. Leg cramps are commonstrong muscle tension and strainduring sports triggered. The risk of cramping is particularly high when running and swimming.
But alsoUnderchallenge causes problems for the legs. If you sit at your desk all day or drive a lot, you often have to struggle with calf cramps at night. The reason: the lack of movement worsens the blood circulation in the legs and the muscles are not adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients.Uncomfortable footwear also causes the muscles to cramp - many women who wear high-heeled shoes are familiar with this phenomenon.
Leg cramps at night usually indicate aElectrolyte imbalance down. In the body, minerals play an important role in controlling communication between nerves and muscles. If magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium are not available in sufficient quantities, the muscles can cramp.
Also a Dehydrationstresses the muscles and brings the water-salt balance out of balance. Because of this, cramps often occur as a result of severeSweating, diarrhea, fever, vomitingand Diets on.
Older people suffer from calf cramps more often than young people - often because they drink too little and therefore lack the fluids and minerals to supply the muscles. In addition, calf cramps in old age can be associated with muscle breakdown, nerve disorders or as a result of too little exercise Side effect of medication to be triggered.
2nd cause: hormones
Lots of women in thepregnancy suffer from calf cramps because they have a higher need for minerals and vitamins due to hormonal changes or suffer from circulatory disorders in the legs.
Also taking theBirth control pills can promote leg cramps. It leads to increased flushing of water from the body, which makes it easier for dehydration and a magnesium deficiency to occur.
3rd cause: metabolic disorders
Diabetics also often suffer from leg cramps. If the blood sugar levels are too high, the kidneys begin to filter the sugar out of the blood and then excrete it with the urine. During this process valuable minerals such as magnesium and potassium are lost. Disturbances in the electrolyte balance occur, which manifest themselves in the form of leg cramps and increased thirst. However, circulatory disorders can also causeDiabetes mellitus the leg muscles are not adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. In the further course of the disease, nerve damage can also cause painful cramps.
However, calf cramps can also be an indication of aserious illness, such as kidney failure, thyroid malfunction, or inflammation of the pancreas. The kidneys, for example, not only regulate blood pressure, but also ensure that waste materials are eliminated. If their functionality is disturbed, the substances remain in the body, which significantly disrupts the fluid balance. As a result, cramps can occur in the calves, feet, and other areas of the body.
Circulatory disorders in the legs, for example due to blocked blood vessels, can also cause pain and leg cramps. Doctors then speak of what is known as peripheral arterial occlusive disease, or PAOD for short.
4th cause: nerve damage
Some Nervous system disorders are associated with muscle weakness, which can trigger muscle spasms. One such disease is polyneuropathy, which affects several peripheral nerves in the body.Nerve damage but can also occur due to alcohol or age.
5th cause: musculoskeletal system
Also Muscle disorders, so-called myotonia, can be behind calf cramps. The tensing and relaxing of the muscles is defective. The diseases can be hereditary or triggered by a lack of vitamin D or hormonal factors.
Sometimes areImproper loads due to joint diseases or foot misalignments to blame for the cramps.
An overview of the causes of calf cramps:
• Imbalance in fluid and electrolyte balance (sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium deficiency), often triggered by profuse sweating, too little drinking, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, alcohol abuse, diet, kidney failure or medication
• Overloading, one-sided loading or underloading the calf muscles
• tight shoes
• Medicines (e.g. laxatives, medicines for high blood pressure, birth control pills)
• Misaligned feet
• Kidney disease (renal insufficiency)
• Metabolic diseases (diabetes mellitus, underactive parathyroid or adrenal cortex)
• Neurological diseases (polyneuropathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
• Nerve damage, e.g. B. as a result of alcohol or drug abuse, spinal disc damage
• muscle diseases (myotonia, dystonia)
• Circulatory disorders
• varicose veins
Leg cramps during pregnancy
Most women experience regular night cramps during pregnancy. A magnesium deficiency caused by the hormonal change and poor blood circulation in the legs are the main causes. In order to prevent cramps, a diet rich in magnesium and regular exercise are recommended.
Leg cramps while running
Runners are particularly often affected by leg cramps. Usually a combination of overload and mineral deficiency is the cause. Typical examples are marathon runners and soccer players. When you sweat, the body loses fluids and minerals. If this loss is not compensated for, the nerves can no longer control the muscles properly.
In addition to a diet rich in minerals, it is therefore important to drink enough fluids before and during training. Juice spritzers and mineral water are ideal. Some athletes also mix some table salt in their water to provide the body with sodium. Magnesium tablets and compression stockings are also popular tools to help prevent leg cramps.
If a calf cramp occurs while running, stretching and massaging can quickly loosen the muscles again. However, if cramps occur again and again, it is advisable to stop training or the competition.
First aid: relieve leg cramps
If calf cramps suddenly occur, most people instinctively react correctly. They stretch the foot or leg and give the painful area a gentle massage. It can also help to take a few steps. The pain often disappears after a few seconds, but in some cases a feeling of sore muscles remains. Some swear by a warm calf shower or a calf wrap.
The best home remedies for calf cramps
- Leg wrap: Moisten a towel with hot water, wring it out and wrap it around the calf. Remove the towel as soon as it cools down. Repeat the process until the cramp has resolved.
- Strain:The calf muscles can be stretched by stretching your legs out as far as possible while lying down, grasping the tip of your foot with your hand and pulling your foot firmly upwards. Another way to stretch your calves is to step in front of a wall, bend your front leg, and press your back heel into the floor until you feel a slight pull in the calf.
- Move: Even if every movement hurts during a cramp - slow walking back and forth stimulates the blood circulation in the leg and helps to relieve the cramp.
- Massage: Massage the calf muscles gently with your hands to stimulate blood flow and loosen up the muscles.
- Hot bath: The best remedy for muscle cramps: Lie in the bathtub and enjoy a warm full bath.
- Alternating showers: The alternation of cold and warm water stimulates the blood circulation and has a relaxing effect.
Preventing leg cramps: healthy eating and exercise
But what helps against muscle cramps in the calves in the long term? If an underlying disease has been ruled out, it is important to eliminate any defects. Sufferers should always drink enough - one and a half liters of water at least per day. Especially in hot spells or when exercising, the water excreted through sweating has to be balanced out again.
Furthermore is a balanced nutrition important, which ensures the supply of vital minerals such as magnesium and sodium, which are especially essential for the muscles. Magnesium, for example, is found in abundance in bananas, nuts, whole grain products, legumes and oatmeal. If the requirement cannot be covered through diet, vitamin supplements and magnesium tablets may help.
By regular exercise calf cramps can be significantly alleviated. A short walk before going to bed can be enough to prevent a nocturnal calf cramp. Those affected should also refrain from wearing uncomfortable shoes. Women who often wear high heels should regularly have "flat" days.
The muscles should be warmed up well before sporting activities - this also prevents sports injuries. After exercising, it is advisable to stretch the muscles sufficiently. Also before bed are stretching makes sense, especially if the cramps occur primarily at night. It can also help to keep your legs warm at night, for example with socks or by placing a hot water bottle or a warming pad under the calves.
Leg cramps: what role does magnesium play?
Magnesium plays an important role in muscle function. Often, therefore, calf cramps are attributed to a magnesium deficiency. However, this does not have to automatically lead to cramps. The other way around, there are many people who regularly suffer from cramps despite adequate magnesium intake.
Although a magnesium deficiency can promote the development of leg cramps, other minerals such as sodium, calcium, potassium, iodine and zinc are essential for communication between muscles and nerves. While magnesium primarily ensures the relaxation of the muscles (muscle relaxation) and supports their regeneration after exercise, calcium is important for tension (muscle contraction), for example. In general, people who are prone to calf cramps should therefore ensure a diet rich in minerals and adequate fluid intake in order to keep the overall electrolyte balance in the body in balance.
In the case of recurring calf cramps, an increased magnesium intake can be a useful first step. Adults should consume 350 mg of magnesium daily. Foods that are high in magnesium include cocoa, oatmeal, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and cashew nuts.
Due to the increased need, athletes often resort to magnesium supplements, which are available in the form of tablets or granules in pharmacies and drugstores. Anyone who uses high doses of magnesium, however, has to be patient for several weeks until the magnesium stores are replenished and the cramps subside. A magnesium intake that is too high can also lead to diarrhea.
Treating calf cramps: when should you see a doctor?
Sufferers should see their family doctor if the cramps:
- occur again and again
- often last for several minutes and are very painful
- occur with certain movements
- Do not let up even with stretching exercises
- rob you of sleep and you are exhausted and not well rested in the morning
- be accompanied by swelling of the legs or feet
- occur concomitantly with back pain
- numbness, paralysis, tingling and other abnormal sensations occur.
Various examination methods help the doctor to find the trigger for the cramps and to clarify whether an illness is behind the symptoms. Among other things, blood and urine values provide information about the electrolyte balance of the body, the blood sugar values, but also about the liver and kidney values. Thyroid function or hormone production is also often included in the diagnosis. Ultrasound exams of the veins and arteries in the legs are also possible measures. Depending on the result, it may be necessary to visit other doctors, for example an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist or another specialist.
If home remedies and dietary supplements no longer help, the doctor can prescribe themMedication prescribe with quinine sulfate. However, these can trigger side effects such as cardiac arrhythmias. There is also the option of treating calf cramps with epilepsy medication or electrical stimulation. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate therapy.
Leg cramps in children
Even if leg cramps occur mainly in older people, children and adolescents can be affected as well. However, the causes of calf cramps in children are usually the same as in adults: a lack of fluids, a lack of minerals or excessive exercise during exercise.
Drinking is often forgotten, especially when playing, romping or studying for hours. However, children need sufficient fluids and minerals to build muscles and bones. Children who do a lot of sport have even more needs. You should therefore make sure that your child drinks regularly and that they get enough magnesium and calcium through their food. According to the German Nutrition Society, children from 7 years of age need 170 mg magnesium per day, children from 10 years of age 230 mg. Like adults, adolescents need between 300 and 400 mg / day.
If the muscle cramps do not go away despite a change in diet, food supplements can also be used in children - but always in consultation with a doctor, who first determines whether there is actually a mineral deficiency.
Leg cramps and varicose veins: this is how they are related
Based on the name, some people may suspect that leg cramps can lead to varicose veins (varicosis). However, these originate in the veins and not in the muscles. The name has nothing to do with cramps, but derives from the old German word krimpfan from what "bend" means. This refers to the curvature of the veins that shimmer through the skin with a bluish tinge.
However, the congestion of blood in the veins can actually lead to calf cramps, as this affects the metabolism in the legs. Patients also usually suffer from heavy legs as well as feelings of tension and water retention.The symptoms usually increase in the evening, which is why the leg cramps in varicose veins mainly occur at night.
So calf cramps can be a symptom of varicose veins. The other way around, calf cramps do not cause varicose veins.
Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.
More on the topics
- Physical complaints,
- Muscle cramps,
- Home remedies,
- Sports injuries,
- Occlusive disease
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