By Kennedy Shelley
Is there anything worse at night than to be woken up by a cramping calf?
The pain is often extraordinarily bad, and it leaves you tired the next day.
If you have these several times a week, it will start to affect your health.
Sleep is right up there with diet and exercises as key lifestyle markers of staying healthy. (see this article in Freedom Health News)
How many of us get them?
Over 60% of adults get cramps, or charley horses occasionally at night.
So, are calf cramps just part of getting older, and is there anything we can do to treat and prevent them?
WHAT CAUSES THEM
You can get cramps from several causes:
- Too much exercise. If you go on a long hike, bike ride or run, you might end up with calf cramps that night. Standing too long can also cause this. Too much yard work and bending over, straining your hamstring muscles and calves can be a problem. But if it happens, this is the first thing to consider.
- Electrolyte imbalance. Too little salt, potassium or magnesium can cause muscles to cramp during exercise or when you are sleeping.
- This is a delicate balance, you don’t want to have a full bladder going to bed because you have to wake up and go to the bathroom, but if you are dehydrated you are at risk of cramps.
- Short tendons. Tight muscles can cause cramping.
- Nerve problems. Scientist have found that nerves in the abdomen can fire involuntarily at night causing the cramps.
- Bad circulation. Not getting good blood flow to the lower body at night due to hardening of the arteries can cause these painful cramps.
- These are scary thoughts, but usually rare.
- Metabolic problems. Diabetes and other metabolic diseases can cause cramps.
- Statins and diuretics can cause cramps to flair.
There are several home remedies for immediate relief. Standing seems to help most people, so just getting out of bed and moving around often will stop the spasming.
Personally, I have found that standing on cold tile seems to help the most.
Massaging the leg, trying to get blood to flow in the area seems to help.
Walking on your heals may help stretch out the cramping muscles. Gentle stretching might also help.
Taking some sort of anti-inflammatory over the counter pain killer might help after the cramps stop spasming.
If you think it’s from overexertion, some preventative stretches of the calves might make sense before you go to bed.
Closely related to this if you have sweated a great deal during your exercise, getting your electrolytes back in balance may be your first strategy.
First, get the right amount of salt.
Salt has been demonized as a cause of high blood pressure for over 50 years, but most doctors have backed away from the recommendation of cutting back on salt except for a small group of people who are sodium sensitive.
Most people need 3-5 grams of salt a day to stay healthy.
If you eat a bunch of restaurant food or highly processed food you should be getting plenty of sodium, but you don’t then start looking to add more to your food.
To find out more about salt and why it is important, see this article in Freedom Health News.
Magnesium is another mineral that most Americans are deficient in. When it is low you can get some serious cramping. Consider supplementing your current diet.
If these home remedies don’t work, you need to see your doctor to see if the nighttime cramps aren’t a sign of a more dangerous condition.