Leg cramps at night are common.
And it is important to differentiate between the causes of leg cramps and other causes of nocturnal leg pain.
Because there are several conditions that can cause leg pain at night:
- leg cramps at night
- varicose veins
- Use of statins to lower cholesterol.
- Lower extremity arterial disease (atherosclerosis).
So what causes leg cramps at night?
Muscle spasm or spasm is due to a sudden and violent muscle contraction (shortening and tightening). These nocturnal leg cramps usually occur in the calf muscle. But cramps in the feet and legs also happen at night. Thigh cramps are less common.
One of the main reasons for pain is that blood flow to the muscle is restricted. Waste products also accumulate in muscle tissue.
Here are nine conditions that can cause muscle twitching.
The underlying causes of leg cramps are unknown. However, here are nine possible suspects:
- dehydration. Not drinking enough fluids during the day can be the main cause of leg cramps at night. This is most likely due to fluid electrolyte imbalances (mainly sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium).
- Excessive use of the muscles, possibly due to exercise, gardening or other physical activities.
- Nocturnal leg cramps during pregnancy affect about 30% of women. In the next article, I want to give you a big warning about relieving leg muscle spasms during pregnancy. (You can find a link to this article at the bottom of this page.)
- Concrete. That seems a bit far-fetched to me, but I've read that standing on concrete for long periods of time can cause leg pain. At age 17, he worked at a steel mill. It was hard, sweaty physical work. We were standing on concrete eight hours a day, day in and day out, working hard. I don't recall any men complaining of leg cramps, but then again, these guys were tough. Complaining was for whiners.
- Far standing. Maybe the concrete isn't the real culprit and it is. There's a good study published in August 2011. It shows that prolonged standing at work is a risk factor for both varicose veins and nocturnal calf cramps. If you have a job that supports you, try to find time and opportunities to sit down when you can. Downtime may be your only chance.
- Diabetes. Some leg cramps at night may actually be a result of diabetes. Keep in mind, however, that just because you get occasional leg cramps at night doesn't mean you have diabetes.
Click here for more infoa natural approach to balancing insulin and glucose levels(The link opens in a new window.)(Video) Night leg cramps - Leg Cramps at Night: Causes, Pain Relief & Prevention
- Ill-fitting shoes can cause shin splints in some adults and children. When it comes to the causes of leg cramps in women, high heel shoes must be considered.
- Kidney dialysis can be the cause of nocturnal leg cramps.
- Medications, including diuretics for high blood pressure, oral contraceptives, and statins.
Important advice if you are taking statins for cholesterol
One of the side effects of taking statins is leg muscle pain. Technically, it's not shin splints.
However, if you take statins, you should be aware that studies show that taking statins lowers levels of the nutrient coenzyme Q10 (abbreviated as CoQ10). A study in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology showed that statins reduce coenzyme Q10 levels by up to 40%!
This is very important as lower levels of CoQ10 can cause pain or cramping in your leg muscles. As with many things in medicine, studies are mixed on this point.
I don't take statins. However, from time to time I like to take coenzyme Q10 to stimulate the heart.
I have been reading about this nutrient for years. And reading about the coenzyme Q10 phenomenon by clinical cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. a few years ago it really piqued my interest.
Although this book is several years old, it provides an excellent overview of why CoQ10 is so important for many health concerns, especially heart health.
I got my copy from Amazon.If you are interested, you can read about it here.
Supplementing with a 50 mg dose of CoQ10 twice daily for 30 days may benefit you if you have muscle pain due to statins. Definitely something to discuss with your doctor.
Below I have provided a link in Reference #5 that you can click on to see a good study on how to take CoQ10 for muscle pain.
The thing is, if you're taking statins, you really need to learn about the connection between statins and CoQ10. Visiting pubmed.com can also provide medical information on this topic.
Here's something else to consider: There are some studies that show that 100 mg of CoQ10 taken at night can cause insomnia. That's why I always take my CoQ10 in the morning after breakfast. Coenzyme Q10 should always be taken with food.
Here's the CoQ10 I like to take because I've been a vegetarian for forty years.There are all kinds of CoQ10 products on Amazon. Browse Amazon and find one you like.
One more thing to keep in mind: some studies show that coenzyme Q10 can lower blood pressure a little. Therefore, it is a good idea to monitor your blood pressure if you are taking blood pressure medication.
This is what I suggest buying from Amazon.com
Amazon.com has a wide range of products for leg cramps. Some are creams, some are sprays, there are magnesium supplements and also homeopathic pills.
In my article on homeopathic sleep aids, I wrote about my skepticism about homeopathy. Surprisingly though, many people find relief with this form of treatment.
You might even want to try compression stockings.
Because who am I to say what might work for you?
I know that leg cramps hurt a lot, so you might want to try the following. Or just type leg cramps into the search box and see what comes up.
I hope this helps.
Three final things to keep in mind
- Do not confuse nocturnal leg cramps with restless legs syndrome; they are separate diseases. (See my articles below on restless leg syndrome.)
- Nocturnal calf cramps during sleep are common. If you have frequent, severe leg cramps throughout the day or night and nothing seems to ease your leg pain, see your doctor.
- If you suffer from insomnia and sleepless nights, whether due to muscle spasms in your legs, joint pain or other reasons,This may be the best natural sleep aid you'll ever experience. (The link opens a new browser window). I like the science behind it.
I also like it because not only adults can take it, but also children from 12 years old. This makes it a great natural sleep aid for teenagers.
I hate it when my legs or feet cramp at night. So, I hope the other articles I've written below are helpful for you.
Here is my series of in-depth articles on leg cramps. Also information about Restless Legs Syndrome.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps: Can They Be Prevented?
Leg Pain at Night: 16 Treatment Options for Leg Cramps
Treatment of nocturnal leg cramps: 6 more options
No more leg cramps at night! My Top Five Picks to Relieve Leg Cramps
What is restless leg syndrome?
19 Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
Back to sleep disorders main page
References on the causes of leg cramps at night
- Evidence for a plasma CoQ10-lowering effect of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. 40% reduction in CoQ10 levels. J Clin Pharmacol. March 1993; 33(3):226-9.
- leg cramps Clinical Evidence 2009;03:1113.
- Sleep: The Complete Guide to Sleep Disorders and a Better Night's Rest.Dr. J. Paul Caldwell
- Relationship between long standing periods and symptoms of varicose veins and nocturnal leg cramps in women and men. Ergonomics. August 17, 2011.
- Coenzyme Q10 supplementation reduces mild to moderate muscular symptoms associated with statins: a randomized controlled trial.Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 2183–2188.
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