6. Uncontrolled Diabetes
Diabetes can also contribute to leg muscle cramping. In fact, it is a symptom of a form of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy, one of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes.
Besides the sharp pain in the leg muscle, diabetes patients may also experience tingling and numbness.
Elevated blood sugar also causes excessive urination and subsequent dehydration, which contributes to night leg cramps.
If you’re experiencing muscle cramps related to diabetes, consult your doctor immediately. Catching nerve damage early is important in preventing further complications.
Blood flow problems such as peripheral arterial disease may also contribute to nocturnal leg cramps.
7. Alcohol Abuse
Excess alcohol intake is not good your health. Peripheral nerves can become damaged due to too much alcohol use, causing alcoholic neuropathy. Leg pain and muscle cramps are common symptoms of alcoholic neuropathy.
Excessive drinking causes dehydration due to the diuretic effect of alcohol. Plus, it can cause a magnesium deficiency.
Another important point to note is that excess alcohol intake increases the content of lactic acid in your body. Excessive lactic acid can lead to cramps or pain in your muscles.
8. Certain Medications
Another cause of nocturnal cramps is a side effect of medications.
Certain medicines, especially cholesterol-lowering agents (statins) and diuretics, contribute to the loss of water and electrolytes from the body. This in turn makes you more prone to having cramps.
Other medicines, such as antipsychotics, birth control pills and steroids, can also cause cramps.
If cramps start suddenly after you begin taking a new medication, consult your doctor.
Tips to fix and prevent leg cramping at night:
- Drink plenty of water and other healthy fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Drinking sports drinks with electrolytes can be useful in preventing the problem.
- Steer clear of alcohol, coffee and soda beverages that rob the body of water, increasing the risk for cramping.
- Stretch your leg muscles before going to bed. Stretching your calves can help ease muscle tension and reduce the chance of having a cramp at night. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Physiotherapy reports that stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults.
- Riding a stationary bicycle for 10 minutes before you go to bed is another good option.
- Keep blankets and bed sheets loose around your feet so that your toes are not distorted.
- If you have a cramp, massage the cramped muscle with your hands for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Walking or jiggling the leg after a cramp will send a signal to your brain that your muscle needs to contract and then relax. This can promote faster recovery.
- Applying a hot compress to the cramped muscle can relax and loosen it up, thus easing the cramp.
- Make sure to get enough potassium in your diet. Good sources of potassium include bananas, dates, apricots, grapes, cabbage, broccoli, oranges, grapefruit, fish, pork and lamb.
- Also, try adding more magnesium to your diet. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of magnesium.
- Pregnant women should consult a doctor about taking magnesium supplements.