How often does this happen to you? You lay down to go to sleep at night, and your legs start aching, or twitching uncontrollably. This happens to millions of people every night. But, just because it is common, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t completely annoying, and often quite painful. It can also be associated with a number of health issues. Both adults and children are known to experience leg pain at night. Today we are going to talk about the various causes of nighttime leg pain, treatments, and tips for avoiding it in the first place.
Types of Leg Pain and Treatments:
The first thing we will discuss are the various types of leg pain, and how each type of leg pain can be treated. In many cases, leg pain is caused by regular wear and tear on the body, such as standing all day, exercising too much, fatigue, etc. But, there are other things that can cause nighttime leg pain that you should be aware of.
Rest Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Do you find that once you lay down at night that your legs begin to twitch? Does it feel like a million insects are crawling beneath the skin on your legs? If you answered “yes” to these questions, chances are that you have RLS. The symptoms of RLS get worse at night, and there are various things that can cause it, including pregnancy, obesity, anemia (iron deficiency), and hyperthyroidism.
This is also known to be a genetic disease, with many members of a family all experiencing symptoms. When you have RLS, you will likely find that moving around relieves the symptoms, and your legs may even kick or twitch uncontrollably. Treatments for RLS include:
- Stretching or moving the legs for relief
- Massaging the affected areas of the legs
- Soaking in a warm bath before bedtime
- Taking iron supplements if anemia is the cause
- Going for a short walk (even around the house)
Leg cramps, particularly in the calves, are common and painful. You will know you have one if the leg muscle cramps up and hardens, and it hurts to touch. This is often caused by dehydration. Other causes include hormonal imbalance, or a potassium and magnesium deficiency.
Some medicines are known to cause cramping, as well as strenuous exercise. Some women find that they cramp during the second trimester of their pregnancies. Treatments can include:
- Gentle stretching
- Standing up and moving the leg around if possible
- A heating pad applied to the affected area for pain relief
- A cold compress after the pain eases to help in relaxing the muscle
- Drinking plenty of water
- Muscle relaxers for persistent Charlie horse pain
Diabetes can lead to a number of issues with the feet and legs, including neuropathy. This is when the nerves in the leg are damaged because there is not proper blood circulation. This can lead to a lot of pain, as well as numbness in the feet and toes.
A tingling or burning sensation in the legs and/or hands is another symptom. If not properly treated, this can lead to a loss of sensation all together, and eventually, a loss of limbs. This can also be an issue for anyone who has blood pressure issues. Treatments include:
- Monitoring and keeping blood sugar levels at the normal range
- Pain medication as prescribed by your physician
- Regular foot examinations to prevent this and other foot issues associated with diabetes
Deep Vein Thrombosis:
A clot embedded in a leg vein is the cause of deep vein thrombosis. It is a common health problem for people who spend several hours a day in a seated position. Other causes can include heart attacks, obesity, respiratory disorders, and recent labor/childbirth.
This is a serious health condition that has been known to lead to death if not treated properly. Treatments can include:
- Prescribed blood thinners
- Wearing compression socks or stockings to improve blood circulation
- Surgery in extreme cases
If you have ever had a bout with sciatica, you know just how horribly painful it can be. A serious bout can leave you pretty much bed-ridden for several weeks, barely able to move. Sciatica is caused when a herniated disk or a bone spur presses against the sciatic nerve.
When one has sciatica, they experience a number of sensations, including inflammation, numbness, and extreme pain. The back and hip will be sore, yet the entire side of the leg will feel numb when you touch it. Most of the time, sciatica only affects one side of the body. Treatments can include:
- Ice packs to the affected area
- OTC pain killers such as ibuprofen
- If pain persists, you may need to see a doctor or chiropractor
Other Causes of Nighttime Leg Pain:
These are the main causes of nighttime leg pain, but they are not the only causes. The following are other things that can cause you to have leg pain at night.
- Sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time
- Poor Sleeping Position
- Knee problems
- Incorrect Pillow Selection
How to Avoid Nighttime Leg Pain:
There are many things that you can do in order to avoid having nighttime leg pain. The first thing is to always make sure that you are well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices throughout the day, every day. Other things you can do to avoid nighttime leg pain include:
- Always do Warm-Ups – Always make sure that you warm up before exercising. If you don’t, your muscles aren’t stretched out enough, and it can lead to injuries and pain.
- Don’t Over-Exercise – Doing too much exercise is not going to help you get into better shape. You know the phrase, “no pain, no gain”? Well, ignore it! If you start to feel pain while exercising, stop.
- Eat Healthy – Make sure that your diet is rich in calcium and potassium, as mineral deficiency is a leading cause of leg cramps.
A Final Thought:
If you have consistent leg pain at night, and none of the above treatments are helping, consult your physician. You will need to find out the cause of the leg pain before you can begin to treat it.