home
RSS
Get Some Sleep: Avoid frequent leg cramping
Leg cramps usually involve sudden, intense pain, unlike RLS, which is usually a steady, uncomfortable feeling that lasts for hours.
August 2nd, 2011
12:19 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Avoid frequent leg cramping

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs regularly on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

It is frustrating, to both patients and doctors, that modern medical science often lacks understanding of or treatment for common, everyday ailments.

One such ailment, leg cramps, is very common and yet poorly understood. It often plagues people at night, and therefore “sleep-related leg cramps” is recognized as a bona fide sleep disorder by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.

Most people have had a “charley horse” and know that leg cramps can be quite painful. Leg cramps result from the sudden, intense and involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscle group. They usually occur in the calf muscle or the small muscles of the feet.

If this happens once a year, few people think of this as a medical condition, but there are people who have leg cramps every night, sometimes several times a night. The cramps can prevent people from falling asleep or can awaken them many times during the night, and therefore leg cramps can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

The painful sensation is usually relieved by strenuous stretching of the affected muscle. Often, people jump out of bed in their attempt to stop the searing pain. Both the prevalence and frequency increase as people age. There is research showing that approximately one-third of all people over the age of 60 and one-half of those over the age of 80 reported having sleep-related leg cramps once in the previous two months. Six percent of adults over the age of 60 have reported having leg cramps that disturb them every night.

Leg cramps are sometimes confused with restless legs syndrome (now known as Willis-Ekbom disease), but the two disorders are quite different, although patients can have both problems.

RLS is not commonly described as a sudden, intense pain. Also, people who suffer from RLS usually have a steady, uncomfortable feeling in the legs that lasts for hours, and this maddening feeling is only temporarily relieved for a few minutes while they move or rub their legs.

There are some medical conditions that seem to predispose people to leg cramps such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and neuromuscular disorders. Medications such as oral contraceptives have been associated with leg cramps. They occur in approximately 40% of pregnant women and usually resolve after birth.

If leg cramping is frequent and intense, people should not assume that they have benign, idiopathic (of unknown cause) leg cramps. It is advised to consult a physician in order to differentiate leg cramps from more serious medical conditions such as akathisia, myelopathy, peripheral neuropathy and disorders of calcium imbalance.

There are numerous theories about the cause of leg cramps but little evidence supporting the veracity of any given theory. One common notion is that they result from dehydration, but the little research done does not support this.

Also common is the idea that there is a relative electrolyte imbalance. Magnesium and potassium are popular culprits. Again, there is little research on this. One study attempted to treat leg cramps in a group of pregnant women and found that magnesium was no better than a placebo.

The same is true for potassium deficiency; there is no research showing that low potassium causes leg cramps or that taking extra potassium prevents them. That said, I have patients who swear that a banana before bed takes care of the leg cramping problem. I also know people who report that sitting in a bath of Epsom salts right before bed helps ward off  nocturnal leg cramps.

I have patients who think that the leg cramps come upon them only when they exercise strenuously, and then there are those who associate the cramps with lack of exercise. The best theory is the “squatting hypothesis,” which speculates that leg cramping is associated with the modern habit of sitting on chairs and on the toilet instead of squatting as our forebears would have done.

I believe that is just another way of saying that leg cramps could be caused by a lack of strengthening and stretching of the calf and feet muscles.

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.

Post by:
Filed under: Pain • Sleep

soundoff (1,279 Responses)
  1. seafood market near me

    http://www.majestic-earth.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=reviewnearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. lakes near me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you writing this article and the rest of the site is also very good.

    http://mahalodrink.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=quotenearme.com/

    June 18, 2021 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. nissan dealership near me

    Very good post. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well..

    https://www.yumejin.jp/shop/display_cart?return_url=http://bestservicenearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. office supply store near me

    I was able to find good information from your blog posts.

    http://www.hakgolf.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.bestservicenearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. popeyes near me

    Hello there, I believe your website might be having web browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to give you a quick heads up! Apart from that, wonderful blog!

    http://www.englishsounds.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=nearmyspot.com/

    June 18, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. realtors near me

    Having read this I thought it was very informative. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

    http://nelliecravens.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=wholesalenearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. amazon jobs near me

    http://jclick.koreadaily.com/JAgent1.dll?3*16*https://bestshopnearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 09:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Homepage

    I have been reading out many of your stories and i can state clever stuff. I will definitely bookmark your site.

    http://carylyons.inube.com/blog/8679238/wood-burning-for-beginners-effortless-guide/

    June 18, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. vons near me

    http://www.bangaloreonline.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=quotenearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    Everything is very open with a really clear description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!

    https://www.cssdrive.com/?URL=https://ocrv.info/motorhome-interior-remodel-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. appomannoni

    erectile spray kayamy erectile growing foods
    erectile dysfunction when viagra doesn t work slilicy best erectile pump
    bladder cancer erectile beefs function sicAdofs buy erectile dysfunction meds online

    June 18, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Repair Huntington Beach

    I enjoy reading an article that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

    http://freedback.com/thank_you.php?u=http://www.ocrv.org/monaco-rv-collision-repair-paint-shop-near-me-orange-county

    June 18, 2021 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Repair Shop Near My Location

    I blog quite often and I really appreciate your content. This article has truly peaked my interest. I'm going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new details about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.

    http://www.secure.duoservers.com/?lang=en&s_id=123179&rdomain=https://www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-montclair-california&action=order&popup=1

    June 18, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    http://www.pantybucks.com/galleries/hpf/64/clair/index.php?link=ocrvcenter.com/motorhome-step-repair-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    http://www.anonym.to/?http://www.payskip.org/Q69wvD1/

    June 18, 2021 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. licensed general contractors near me

    http://marcou63o2.blog2news.com/5377658/top-latest-five-generator-repair-urban-news

    June 18, 2021 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Repairs Nearby

    Itís difficult to find experienced people on this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://lolinez.com/?ocrvcenter.com/motorhome-sound-system-repair-near-me

    June 18, 2021 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    http://redirect.camfrog.com/redirect/?url=http://www.theocrv.com/rv-flooring-repair-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. fun things to do near me

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It's always helpful to read through articles from other writers and use a little something from their websites.

    http://laukien.info/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.quotenearme.com

    June 18, 2021 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. appomannoni

    erectile after prostate surgery kayamy erectile dysfunction doctors
    erectile function clinic in san antonio slilicy erectile tissue
    how erectile dysfunction affects women sicAdofs erectile lubricants

    June 18, 2021 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Camper Repairs Near Me

    http://snzg.cn/comment/index.php?item=articleid&itemid=38693&itemurl=http://www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-plumbing-repair-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. vanity tops

    Thanks for the good writeup. It actually was a enjoyment
    account it. Glance complicated to more brought agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we keep in touch?

    June 18, 2021 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Repair

    https://radar.techcabal.com/clicks/track?url=http://www.ocrvcenter.com/industrial-bus-collision-repair-shop-near-me

    June 18, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Sprinter Repair Orange County

    There's definately a great deal to know about this issue. I really like all of the points you have made.

    https://historyhub.history.gov/external-link.jspa?url=ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-westminster-california

    June 18, 2021 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Repair Shop

    Hello there! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for the great information you have got right here on this post. I will be returning to your blog for more soon.

    http://loome.net/demo.php?url=https://www.ocrv.art/rv-repair-shop-mission-viejo-california

    June 18, 2021 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me

    https://www.xcelenergy.com/stateselector?stateselected=true&goto=ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-costa-mesa-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    I like reading a post that will make men and women think. Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

    https://www.searchesinteractive.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-san-juan-capistrano-california/

    June 18, 2021 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    I seriously love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím planning to create my own personal blog and would love to know where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

    http://curseforge.com/linkout?remoteUrl=https://ocrvmotorsports.com/class-a-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    June 18, 2021 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. bowling near me

    https://www.demo.cloudhostedresources.com/?id=7cde069d28fee9161e9475b01c2cf8cf&fullscreen=1&task=get&url=https://bestservicenearme.com

    June 19, 2021 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Repair Shop

    I was very pleased to find this website. I want to to thank you for ones time due to this fantastic read!! I definitely liked every bit of it and I have you saved to fav to see new stuff in your web site.

    https://intranet.canadabusiness.ca/?URL=www.ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-rialto-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. RV Repair Around Me

    http://www.alsoparchitects.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=sfgov.org

    June 19, 2021 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Repair Orange County California

    https://pichak.net/verification/index.php?n=39&url=http://ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-jurupa-valley-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 03:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. appomannoni

    is erectile dysfunction life threatening kayamy best erectile medicine
    erectile pain after peyronie s surgery slilicy male erectile complex
    are erectile dysfunction pills covered by aca sicAdofs best erectile vacuum pump

    June 19, 2021 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repair Shop Near Me

    http://www.worldpress.org/frametop.cfm?ocrvcenter.com/rv-repair-shop-coronado-california/

    June 19, 2021 at 03:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Nearby RV Repairs

    Having read this I believed it was rather informative. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

    https://telemail.jp/_pcsite/?des=015660&gsn=0156603&url=https://www.uii.io/GGKiFx1

    June 19, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Leave a Reply to homes for sale twin lakes id


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.