Monday, July 23, 2012

What's Causes Nighttime Leg Cramps?

Leg cramps at rest are very common, especially in older adults, but can be experienced at any age.  They frequently occur at night and while not life threatening, can be very painful, disruptive of sleep, and can recur throughout the night or many nights each week.  There are several possible reasons for leg cramps. Sometimes, such cramps are initiated by making a movement that shortens the muscle. An example is pointing the toe down while lying in bed, which shortens the calf muscle, a common site of muscle cramps.

Dehydration: Sports and other vigorous activities can cause excessive fluid loss from perspiration. This kind of dehydration increases the likelihood of true cramps. These cramps are more likely to occur in warm weather and can be an early sign of heat stroke. Chronic volume depletion of body fluids from diuretics (medicine that promote urination) and poor fluid intake may act similarly to predispose to cramps, especially in older people. Sodium depletion has also been associated with cramps. Loss of sodium, the most abundant chemical constituent of body fluids outside the cell, is usually a function of dehydration.

Body fluid shifts: True cramps also may be experienced in other conditions that feature an unusual distribution of body fluids. An example is cirrhosis of the liver, which leads to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites). Similarly, cramps are a relatively frequent complication of the rapid body fluid changes that occur during dialysis for kidney failure.

Low blood calcium, magnesium: Low blood levels of either calcium or magnesium directly increase the excitability of both the nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate. This may be a predisposing factor for the spontaneous true cramps experienced by many older adults, as well as for those that are commonly noted during pregnancy. Low levels of calcium and magnesium are common in pregnant women unless these minerals are supplemented in the diet. Cramps are seen in any circumstance that decreases the availability of calcium or magnesium in body fluids, such as taking diuretics, hyperventilation, excessive vomiting, inadequate calcium and/or magnesium in the diet, inadequate calcium absorption due to vitamin D deficiency, poor function of the parathyroid glands (tiny glands in the neck that regulate calcium balance), and other conditions.

Low potassium: Low potassium blood levels occasionally cause muscle cramps, although it is more common for low potassium to be associated with muscle weakness.


If you're suffering from cramping or pain in the legs during the day, the cause of your problem may be from pressure on the spinal nerves that exit from the lower spine.  Call (303) 463-0722 or book an appointment online today, and schedule an appointment to see if chiropractic can help relieve your leg cramps.

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