You finally crawl into bed after a long, busy day. You drift off as soon as your head hits your pillow, when suddenly it hits you like a lightening bolt. You’re jolted awake with an excruciating leg cramp.
Muscle cramps can turn your sweet dreams into nightmares FAST.
Sixty percent of adults get them from time to time. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of folks who dole out advice about handling them are the forty percent who don’t.
Because, let’s face it, being told to “just rub it a bit” doesn’t cut it when you’re in pain. You need effective, science-baked solutions that offer real relief.
And I will get to those in just a moment. But first let’s take a quick look at what the science has to say about nighttime leg cramps.
What research tells us about leg cramps
Officially, they’re called “nocturnal” leg cramps. But no matter what you call them, scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes them.
We do know these nighttime cramps actually originate in our motor neurons or nerves, rather than the muscles themselves. Which gives us some important clues.
Research has revealed they occur more often in the summer months than in winter. Which experts say could be tied to, of all things, vitamin D.
Since we get more D in the summertime, the theory is our body gets busy using it to repair damaged nerves and grow new ones. And all that extra activity may be a trigger.
But scientists agree even if the D-link is true, it’s clearly not the only potential trigger. Aging, for example, makes you much more likely to get leg cramps.
And, as you may be able to attest to, activities which stress the muscles more than they’re used to, can trigger leg cramps too. Plus being low in certain nutrients may be a factor too.
Stop leg cramps and sleep soundly all night long
No matter what’s behind your cramps, one thing’s for sure. You want them gone fast. And you want them gone forever.
Following are five science-backed ways to get FINALLY get rid of your leg cramps.
When muscle cramps hit, most of us feel compelled to stretch. Follow that instinct.
For example, you can try standing a short distance from a wall and lean placing your hands on it for support. Bend your unaffected leg at the knee, and keeping your foot flat on the floor stretch your leg with the cramp straight behind you as you lean.
Stretching can also help you avoid leg cramps in the future. Throughout the day, sneak in some simple stretches such as pointing and flexing your toes and standing up on your tippy toes.
While hearing someone say, “just rub it a bit” when you have a cramp might make you see red, there’s a grain of truth in that advice. But the key is preventing the cramps before they happen with professional massage.
Massages don’t just feel fantastic. A massage therapist who specializes in deep tissue massage can relieve built up muscle tension, improve circulation and help ward off future muscle spasms.
3. Vitamin B-complex:
Research has found that taking a B-complex vitamin—which includes vitamins- B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B9 (folate) and B12—can slash nighttime leg cramps in some folks. Plus they can reduce the severity of any you still get.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study seniors with severe nocturnal leg cramps saw major improvements after taking the vitamin. After three months on B-complex the frequency, intensity and duration of their cramps were significantly reduced in 86 percent of the volunteers.
Since we know the leg cramps originate in the nerves, finding a way to calm those overactive nerve endings can help. And ice fits the bill.
To make a cold pack put some ice in a sealable plastic bag and partially fill it with cold water. Seal up the bag, squeezing out any air as you go. Wrap the bag in a slightly damp towel and apply to the area with the cramp.
Keep in mind you should never place an ice pack directly on the skin. Always cover it in some kind of cloth. And never use one for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
5. Pickle juice:
As strange as it sounds, drinking a little pickle juice before tucking in could be the leg cramp solution you’re looking for. A study conducted at North Dakota State University found that drinking about an ounce of the juice that your dill pickles are soaking in before bedtime can keep nighttime cramps at bay.
But wait, it gets stranger. Experts think it may work by triggering a chemical response in your mouth and throat that tells your nerves to calm down.
Keep in mind that pickle juice is high in sodium. So if you’re salt sensitive, you should double check with your doctor before trying this remedy.
Keep nighttime leg cramps from ruining your slumber ever again. Try these science-backed solutions to get rid of them for good starting today.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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