Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: leg | cramps | night | dehydration | medications

I Need Help With Leg Cramps

Tuesday, 08 May 2012 09:37 AM

Question: I am a woman in my 70s and I suffer from frequent leg cramps at night. I was always prone to getting these, but now they are more frequent and more severe. What causes this?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
Nighttime (or nocturnal) leg cramps are usually sudden spasms, or tightening, of muscles (muscle cramps) in the calf, but can sometimes happen in the thigh or the foot. They often occur just as you are falling asleep or waking up. These painful cramps can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Though nighttime leg cramps are common, exactly what causes them is not very clear. Some of the things that may cause leg cramps are if you are getting too much exercise or overusing the muscles, have lost lot of fluid from your body, sitting for a long time, not having enough potassium, calcium, and other minerals in your blood, taking certain medicines, such as antipsychotics, statins, diuretics, steroids or birth control pills, having flat feet, having a thyroid disorder, or, simply or putting your legs in awkward positions while you sleep. When it happens, try to jiggle your leg, or stretch your calf muscles. Rubbing the calf may also help. To avoid night cramps, drink plenty of water and other fluids during the day, limit or avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks that make you dehydrated. Eat foods rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, ride a stationary bike to condition and stretch your muscles and gently stretch your leg muscles for a few minutes before you go to bed. If your nighttime cramps do not go away, see your doctor as you might need to be tested thoroughly to check for any underlying problem.

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Nighttime leg cramps are often caused by dehydration and certain medications.
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 09:37 AM
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