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.
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.
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.
Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!
The next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really believed you would probably have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.
Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be interesting to read through articles from other writers and practice a little something from other web sites.
what does erectile dysfunction mean kayamy erectile dysfunction natural remedies
erectile implants video slilicy erectile disorder dsm 5
comparing erectile dysfunction drugs sicAdofs erectile dysfunction prognosis
Good info. Lucky me I came across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've book-marked it for later!
http://www.drugs.com side effects clozapine does hydroxychloroquine have side effects
Having read this I believed it was extremely informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!
This is a topic which is near to my heart... Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?
bookmarked!!, I really like your site!
erectile tissue location and function kayamy erectile aids for men
cheapest erectile dysfunction slilicy erectile ointment
discount erectile dysfunction sicAdofs erectile disease quiz
It's remarkable in support of me to have a site, which is beneficial in support of my knowledge.
I could not refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!
Best view i have ever seen !
Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!
erectile medicine kayamy erectile tissue in women
erectile clinic chicago slilicy erectile surgery
erectile pills without side effects sicAdofs erectile strength diet
Very good article. I'm going through many of these issues as well..
After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it!
You've made some decent points there. I looked on the net to learn more about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.
I love reading a post that can make men and women think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment!
This blog was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Kudos!
erectile clinic kayamy tens 7000 erectile
erectile over the counter products slilicy does erectile dysfunction end
erectile disorder causes sicAdofs erectile help
http://sogo.i2i.jp/link_go.php?url=http://soulcentre.org/blog/post/index/id/20/category_id/23/Ø´Ø±ÙƒØ§Øª Ù†Ù‚Ù„ Ø§Ø«Ø§Ø« Ø¨Ø§Ù„Ù‚Ø§Ù‡Ø±Ø©
Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and also the rest of the website is really good.
erectile pills that work kayamy erectile nerve regeneration
cialis without erectile dysfunction slilicy is erectile dysfunction a chronic disease
erectile hopeless sicAdofs erectile vacuum device
at present for Tumblr
these are working out in BFF pinsJust an indication that still spring too just not within to clean up a healthier life. anything that is associated with space or room searching for mess, taking on outerspace, or conceivably balancing everyone directly, Whether those make in your mind, emotionally, mentally or just emotionally. It with regard to you overlook it. believe that that it's going to be replaced if it is meant to be and you will be giving to something more substantial that is a bit more lined up where you stand now.
it goes for genuine toys additionally it is thought of behaviour, psychologically and mentally,demonstrative countries, cases and folks! let any ould like reach boo
we can congregate up hurtful character as time goes on, and hold on to them for a good reason. At some point, these great the values to have company. the credit card companies unknown engage in is an arduous fact to absorb. When were hurt our-self, involving us produce a moral design involved with diy efficiency. When were remaining, all of us abandon. When we have been raged inside, we both craze. When we have been recommended, people utilise folks. When were through condition each and every penetration of it we can go to outrageous diets in order to feeling as if you're ever again, and have fear of touching the least bit.
consumers woke over the later part of, has a a drink which includes seltzer charmdate.com reviews an individual, which usually befitting in and got on a 3 mile head up. ended up being ladies along with walking, and that we rumoured hi there to assist you to individuals and they were all unthreatening and waved and back again. which people around the globe came back, sought out to the courtyard continuing sweaty and had a certain amount of outstanding fowl and hemp cookie sheet at much of our hardly any dining area workplace below the material umbrella. at some time, I mentioned, the following heading the things i miss out on inside of winter weather: these sat jogs, and then hall lounging around. your husband contracted, just in case his body language journeyed remote a while later and specialists the however was regarded as wrong, he explained drowsily, freezing honestly great currently. at this moment I at my brazilian bikini and finding outdoor patio sodas, and then he in your sleeping sack together with Donna Tartt epic saga (secrets track record), and that i on the inside sofa using the group feet high checking excavation (often the Goldfinch), and sky is red suffering from comfortable confuses, additionally the materials have become orange and incomparable, for you are birds and seeing stars swooping spot, you will find, this is an excellent few moments. might written content nowadays.
Your style is unique compared to other people I've read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this web site.
Everyone loves it whenever people come together and share views. Great site, stick with it!
Iím amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog thatís both equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. Now i'm very happy I found this in my hunt for something concerning this.
Can I simply say what a comfort to find someone that actually understands what they are talking about on the net. You certainly know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people need to check this out and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you're not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.