Q:

What causes nocturnal leg cramps?

A:

Quick Answer

Nocturnal leg cramps are often caused by an overexertion of the muscles, improper sitting or long-term standing on concrete floors, according to Cleveland Clinic. Medical conditions such as pregnancy, alcoholism, neuromuscular disorders and endocrine disorders can also cause nocturnal leg cramps.

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Full Answer

Individuals with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism or structural feet disorders are more prone to experience nocturnal leg cramps, explains Cleveland Clinic. Dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance in the body also causes legs to cramp at night.

A muscle cramp in the leg can occur after an injury, exposure to cold temperatures or at night after exercise, notes WebMD. People who sit for long periods of time, put legs in awkward positions while sleeping or have a calcium or potassium deficiency are more at risk for nocturnal leg cramps. Certain medications such as steroids, statins, diuretics, birth control pills and antipsychotic drugs increase the risk of leg cramps at night.

Treatment for nocturnal leg cramps includes stretching and massaging muscles frequently, applying ice or cold packs to the legs and relaxing the muscles with a warm shower or bath, states WebMD. Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to relax the muscles and reduce pain associated with nocturnal leg cramps. In severe cases, physicians may prescribe medication for muscle cramps if the nocturnal leg cramps are consistent and painful. An increase in fluid intake helps to increase circulation to reduce the risk of leg cramps occurring at night.

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