What is the difference between nocturnal leg cramps and restless legs syndrome?
Although both types of leg disorders tend to occur at night or while resting, restless legs syndrome does not cause severe pain and cramping.
Although restless legs syndrome may not be painful, it is more annoying because it leads to the urge to move the legs. During movement, the disturbance decreases but returns when the movement stops. This does not happen with nocturnal leg cramps, where tight muscles need to be tensed effectively in order to get relief.
Who is most likely to get nocturnal leg cramps?
Although anyone can develop nocturnal leg cramps, the number of people who develop them increases with age. The percentage of women who experience nocturnal leg cramps is also slightly higher than the percentage of men.
About 40% of pregnant women experience nocturnal leg cramps, and 50 to 60% of adults do.
What are the causes of leg cramps?
The causes of nocturnal leg cramps are often unknown, but they have been linked to muscle fatigue and nerve problems. There are a number of conditions that may have an effect, including sitting for long periods or sitting incorrectly, and standing or working on concrete floors for a long time which leads to muscle strain.
Sitting or lying down in a certain way may restrict movement or blood flow to the legs, such as squatting or crossing the legs, which can trigger cramps.
Muscle fatigue is the main cause of leg cramps. Athletes are more likely to develop leg cramps after performing above normal levels of activity. Also, stress, such as exercising intense muscles for a long time, may cause some people to have more cramps later in the day.
Nocturnal leg cramps have also been linked to certain medical conditions, including narrowed arteries and circulatory diseases, narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back, which can put pressure on nerves that travel to the legs, pregnancy, dehydration, Parkinson’s disease, kidney and liver failure, and peripheral neuropathy. . . . and endocrine disorders.
Certain medications, such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, and dialysis, may cause nocturnal leg cramps.
Are tests necessary to evaluate nocturnal leg cramps?
A doctor usually only needs a medical history to diagnose nocturnal leg cramps. The doctor may ask questions such as: