Night-Time Leg Cramps

legcrampinbedBy 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).

DehydrationWith 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.
antacidA 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.

common antacidsMany 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?


18 thoughts on “Night-Time Leg Cramps”

  1. Occasionally I get heartburn in the middle of the night and when I take an antacids in the middle of the night I get the worse leg cramps. I never knew what it was from now it makes since. I will keep that in mind next time I get heartburn

  2. I didn’t know about the antacids could cause that, I will have to tell my uncle now to stop taking them before bed.

  3. I used to get leg cramps like this as a child and my mom always had me drink orange juice or eat a banana before bed. They can be very painful

  4. Well I have never had to take an antacid and I have also never woken up with a leg cramp either. Maybe I’m just lucky. I don’t think I have ever even had a leg cramp. I have had plenty foot cramps, but never in my legs, knock on wood

  5. I suffer from acid reflux and used to take medication and chew rolaids like they were candy. I noticed slight leg cramps but dubbed it as my sleeping positions. I no longer take medication or antacids but its really interesing that they are related. This could definitely help some people that I know that have constant and painful leg cramps. Thanks!

  6. I never take antacids, but I know someone who does, I will pass the info on to him. I’m sure he would be interested to know that they are related.

  7. I don’t really get leg cramps, so I never really thought about any of this, but it is still good to know in case future clients ask me about what they can do to fix their issues.

  8. I don’t really get leg cramps often enough to remember them, I’m sure I’ve had to have had one or two in my life my now.

  9. I really hate it when i get leg cramps when i’m sleeping because i would be sleeping really good then leg cramp oh it sucks but i havent had a cramp since my boyfriend started making me eat bannans i dont like them but it helps so i eat them.

  10. I have experienced the leg cramps as a result of anti-acids. I have esophageal ulcers and instead of taking TUMS, I adjusted my diet. I also stopped eating after 8 pm (2-3 hrs before bed). I found this helped not only my acid re-flux but also my leg cramps.

  11. Thanks everyone for all the great feedback & thought you’ve given my article! I’m so glad to hear that the info is something you are able to use!

  12. When the body is lying down for sleep the water is drained from the legs. If there is no supply to replenish the leg muscles then cramps occur. Drink a glass of water before bed and after rising.

  13. Please don’t forget magnesium in your list of deficient electrolytes. Working with chiropractic internists and seeing blood work for years, I have noted a deficiency in magnesium in most people. Magnesium is essential for muscle relaxation. Remember, calcium ions are needed to contract a muscle and magnesium ions for relaxation of a muscle.
    Thanks for your blog, Deborah 🙂

  14. I know all about leg cramps at night, i was trying to lose some weight so I stopped drinking milk. Had the worst charlie horse of my life, the pain was so bad it brought me to tears. When I could finally move i walked about the house to stretch out the gastric muscle, it helped a little but not much. My employer showed me to stretch my leg next time it happens, by putting my leg forward and dorsa flexing my foot, which stretched out my calf muscle. That stretch has saved me many leg cramps in the future, needless to say I went back to drinking milk.

  15. I have had many of leg cramps but it was when I worked all day and didnt drink enough water through out the day so I know it was because my muscle didnt have what they needed but now days i drink a bottle of water before going to bed so it doesnt happen as much anymore.