Night-Time Leg Cramps

By Sharon Truelove
Do Charley Horses in your legs rudely interrupt your sleep at night? Most people have experienced at least once in their life being woke up by the unrelenting pain of a charley horse in the wee hours of the night.  For many people this may occur more often. As a massage therapist, you are sure to have clients that will complain of this phenomenon. Let’s look at the factors that can bring about this unpleasant occurrence.


There are two major causes of leg cramps. First let’s make sure the more serious cause is not the culprit. DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), basically, is a blood clot in the leg. They are not normally palpable and usually the symptoms will occur only in one leg. Other symptoms such as pain, swelling, and/or redness in the leg should be good reason get it checked out by a physician.

1. Setting, standing on hard surfaces, or wearing high heels for prolonged periods can cause leg cramps. The muscles are not meant to be held in one position for a long period of time. Getting up, stretching, walking about to renew the circulation and blood supply with nutrients and fresh oxygen are a good prescription for the muscles.

2. The more common cause of night time leg cramps are because of an electrolyte imbalance. The three major electrolytes that fuel muscle are calcium, potassium, and sodium.  The body is like a machine in that it must have a balance, within a fine range, of various fuels. When something occurs to throw that balance off, symptoms are felt (loud and clear).

With the electrolyte imbalance, it is usually caused by dehydration. Getting too busy and not taking the time to drink enough water throughout the day or skipping meals are a common way of setting one’s self up for dehydration.

In researching this topic, I did find that calcium seems to be the most thought-of electrolyte in reference to legs cramps. The part it plays in affecting muscles is that it is required to fuel proper electrical nerve impulses to and from muscles. An impulse may be sent to a muscle telling it to contract. This impulse is passed along a circuit of nerves until it arrives at its’ proper destination. Calcium has the role of passing the message on to the next nerve via its location in the fluid between the nerves. Too much calcium can cause too much excitation to the muscles.
A common thread I noticed in my reading while researching this topic were reports of antacids being taken before bedtime and intense leg cramps being experienced in the middle of that night.

Those who suffer heartburn and/or acid reflux may use antacids to help reduce the discomfort and/or pain experienced. So, it is smart to study up on what you are ingesting when taking an antacid. Antacids can work by reducing the amount of acid the body produces or weaken the already present acids.

There are a multitude of antacids on the market. Most will contain at least one of the following: Calcium Carbonate, Magnesium Hydroxide, Aluminum Hydroxide and/or Sodium Bicarbonate. Any of these ingredients will help neutralize stomach acid.

Many well-known antacids on the market contain calcium carbonate as an ingredient because it is strong, fast acting, and also may work longer than other antacids that contain sodium bicarbonate or magnesium. Antacids that contain calcium carbonate also provide calcium which most adults don’t get enough of.

So what does all this verbage have to do with night-time leg cramps? It is recommended to not exceed the recommended dosage of antacid, especially before bedtime.

Do you or someone you know take antacids on a regular basis? If so, when do they take them? If they take it before bedtime, did they experience night-time leg cramping?  Is this information something that might be valuable to your clients who have heartburn and/or acid reflux?


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