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This One Weird Trick Will Get Rid Of Those Annoying Nighttime Leg Cramps!
It seems to happen to all of us at time or another: There you are sound asleep, when you are suddenly woken up in the night with a leg cramp so powerful and so painful it makes you jump out of bed!
This is much more common than you might think and is harmless, even if it is painful. Most people experience these cramps in the calf, foot, or thigh. No one is immune, but studies show that they do tend to become more common as we age. About 1 out of every 3 Americans over the age of 60 get some type of nighttime leg or foot cramp about once a month.
The exact cause as to why we get these cramps at night and not during daylight hours is unknown. Doctors and researchers have their suspicions, however, including:
- Pregnancy, especially in the later stages
- Extreme exercise – When you exercise a lot, your muscles get tired and later start to spasm from overuse
- Dehydration – If you are severely dehydrated your body loses fluids and salt. Depleted salt levels in the body can cause the muscles to contract
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
- Medical problems – Including thyroid disease, MS, and kidney disease
- Certain types of prescription medications
- Certain types of infections
- Lead or mercury in the body
- Condition that affect circulation (such as peripheral arterial disease
- Birth control pills
We will talk about some of the things you can do if you get hit with one of those killer cramps, but first, let’s talk about that weird little trick that seems to work for almost everyone who tries it. Ready? It’s soap.
No, we are not kidding! Studies have been done showing that this method really works, although no one really understands why. Simply unwrap a bar of soap and place it between the sheets at the foot of the bed. That’s it. Some people like to touch it with their feet before they go to sleep, but you don’t have to. Just put it at the bottom of your bed and forget about it.
One of the keys to getting this trick to work is making sure that you are using a bar of real soap. It can be scented or unscented, doesn’t matter, but it must be REAL soap. Read the label carefully. Do not use anything that calls itself a “beauty” bar or “complexion” bar, as these are generally nothing more than a bunch of chemicals and perfume. Many people use plain old Ivory soap, but the brand does not matter as long as it is real soap made from fat (or tallow) and lye. If the product you want to use actually says “SOAP” on the label, you are good to go.
Don’t worry, it won’t melt and it won’t make a mess of the sheets. That bar of soap pretty much just sits there, doing whatever it is that bars of soap do to prevent nighttime leg and foot cramps.
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However, since leg cramps can be unpredictable, you might want to check out a few other things that are believed to cause leg cramps:
1. Low Potassium Levels
Doctors believe that low levels of potassium can be the underlying cause of nighttime leg cramps. You can try a high potassium tonic of 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, mixed with 1 teaspoon of honey inside one glass of water. Drink this each night about an hour before bed.
If this seems to work for you, then you can try to improve your potassium levels by eating more potassium rich foods such as avocados, apples, bananas, yogurt, spinach, cantaloupe, baked potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and dried fruit.
2. Low Magnesium Levels
Many people have stated that once they began to increase their intake of magnesium, legs cramps quickly became a thing of the past. You can use magnesium lotions and oils to put on your legs and feet at bedtime, as well as increase your intake of magnesium rich foods such as nuts, pumpkin seeds, bananas, wheat germ, seafood, spinach, baked potatoes, and molasses. Find out more warning signs of magnesium deficiency.
Taking a bath three or four times a week with about 2 cups of Epsom salts added to your bath is another great way to get your magnesium on. Magnesium is difficult for your body to absorb through your digestive system, so getting enough of this vital mineral through your skin is an easy way to get the job done.
3. Low Calcium Levels
Like potassium and magnesium, many doctors believe that a low calcium level is what causes these painful nighttime episodes. Eat more calcium rich foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, turnip greens, salmon, green beans, and sardines (don’t forget to eat those bones!)
If you still get an occasional cramp, it’s good to have a technique you ready to use that will help to stop the cramp quickly.
Try acupressure. Sit in a chair or on the edge of the bed and bend the knee of the leg that is cramping up towards your chest. The acupressure point on your calf is about halfway between the back of your knee and the heel, right at the bottom of the calf muscle bulge. Press that area with a couple fingers or your thumb for about 1 minute. If you have the right spot, the cramp should release. Remember to keep breathing and when the cramp releases, urge blood into the muscle by gently massaging the calf with long stroke up from the heel to the back of the knee using your palm.
If you have fairly regular or persistent leg or foot cramps and you are taking prescription medications, ask your doctor if your medications might be causing your cramps.
If you have been exercising quite a bit lately, try cutting back for a few weeks and see if this helps with your nighttime leg cramps. Some doctors believe that leg cramps are not actually caused by overuse but, instead, are caused by weak calf or thigh muscles. Try doing gentle stretching and strengthening exercises and see if this method works for you.
Also, since dehydration can also be a cause of cramps, be certain that you are drinking enough water throughout the day.