Muscle spasm, particularly leg cramps at night or calf muscle cramps are a very common problem in men and women across all age groups. A cramp is an abrupt and involuntary spasm of a particular set of muscle group in the body, which typically results in constant muscle pain until the connective tissue are able to expand again and return to a relaxed state.
Any of the muscles that we can control (skeletal muscles) might cramp. Leg and foot cramps, particularly the calf muscle cramps (the traditional “charley horse”), are highly prevalent.
There are many possible causes varying from life stages as in pregnancy and old age to reduced blood supply to the legs or lifestyle factors as mineral deficiencies, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance or excessive exercise.
Ayurveda guides us with effective natural therapies and herbal supplements that can provide fast relief from muscle stiffness and ache due to muscle spasm.
What are Muscle Cramps?
A Muscle cramp can be extremely unpleasant and intensely painful, or they may resemble a knot or stitch in the side. You could observe twitching under your skin that is difficult to the touch. Spasms are involuntary, meaning you cannot control the affected muscle during the spasm.
Muscle cramps generally occur in the region below the hips, including the inner thighs, front and back of the thighs, as well as lower legs and calves. They can last from several seconds to several minutes. If the cramp is severe, you may experience muscle soreness and recurring spasms for days.
Unfortunately, muscle cramp often strikes when we least expect them, such as during a workout or at night when we are trying to sleep.
Leg cramps in the night | Nocturnal Cramps
Leg cramps at night, also called nocturnal leg cramps, affect women and elderly the most.
The muscle ache from a nocturnal leg cramp is usually sudden and severe. It can feel like your muscle tissue are being pulled or torn.
You may also feel a burning sensation. The affected muscle may be hard to the touch.
As much as they may hurt, muscular cramps are usually harmless and do not indicate a serious condition.
Causes of Muscular Cramps
Leg cramps in the night and muscle ache can result from multiple factors related to:
When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, it can lead to muscle stiffness. This is especially true if you’ve been sweating a lot or if you have not been drinking enough water.
2. Reduced blood supply to the legs
This can occur due to poor circulation, high blood pressure or an underlying condition such as peripheral artery disease. It can also happen due to excessive stress on muscles as in:
- Muscle Fatigue: When your muscles are tired, they’re more likely to cramp up. For example prolonged standing position or improper sitting positions.
- Muscle strain: This can occur if you overuse or injure a muscle. Sometimes, wrong postures can lead to muscle strain.
- Muscle tension: This can be due to anxiety or stress.
- Sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle weakness. This is because when you don’t use your muscles regularly, they can become weak and tight.
3. Nutritional Deficiency
- Mineral deficiencies: Potassium, Magnesium, calcium, and sodium are essential for muscle function. A deficiency in any of these minerals can lead to muscle cramps.
- Electrolyte imbalance: This can happen if you sweat a lot or urinate frequently due to exercise or heat exposure. It can also occur if you have certain medical conditions that cause you to lose minerals through your urine, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
4. Life stages
- Pregnancy: Muscle cramps are common during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. This can be due to the extra weight you’re carrying, which can put strain on your muscles and ligaments. Muscle cramps can also be caused by dehydration and nutritional deficiency.
- Aging: Muscle cramps are more common as you age, thus you may experience them more during menopause and post menopause. This can be due to a loss of muscle mass and poor blood circulation.
5. Health Conditions
- Neurological conditions: Muscle cramps can be a symptom of nerve disorders such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or MS (multiple sclerosis).
- Obesity: Obesity can put strain on your muscles and ligaments, which can lead to muscle pain and joint pain, specifically lower back pain and knee joints.
- Poor blood sugar control: This can occur if you have diabetes. Chronic body pain and sore muscles can also be a symptom of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
- Medical conditions such as heart disease, liver, kidney or thyroid conditions, neurogenerative disease as Parkinson’s Disease, certain medications and structural issues of the feet or spinal cord can lead to poor muscle control; hence muscle spasms and cramps.
Ayurvedic Approach to Muscle Cramps (Leg Cramps at Night)
In Ayurveda, muscle cramps is classified as “Mamsagata Vata”, meaning abnormal movement “gati” or loss of motor control function in the muscle tissues “mamsa dhatu” due to aggravated vata dosha.
High levels of dryness and poor circulation due to vata increase disturbs Kapha dosha too. Thus, kapha imbalance specifically reduction in kapha dosha depletes the body of lean muscular mass, causing muscle fatigue and muscle loss.
As a result of weak muscles, a painful condition characterized by spasm/bulging occurs. The classical Ayurvedic texts describe muscle cramps as Mamsagata Vata or ‘Pindikodveshtana’, depending on the dosha and location of affected mamsa dhatu (muscle tissue).
Thus, Ayurvedic treatment approach for muscle cramps is thus directed towards reducing the stiffness and pain in the muscles, improving circulation and strengthening the muscle tissue.
Ayurvedic Medicine to Treat Muscle Cramps
Ayurvedic herbs are a natural and effective way to treat muscle cramps. Some of the most popular and effective herbs for this purpose include:
– Tulsi: This herb is known for its ability to improve nervine function, boost circulation and reduce inflammation, all of which can help to reduce muscle cramps.
– Rasna: This herb is known for its anti inflammatory properties and ability to relax the muscles. It thus reduces chronic pain and prevents muscle degeneration.
– Ginger: This herb is known for its pain relieving and anti inflammatory properties. Regular consumption of ginger also improves digestive fire and improve circulation in the body.
– Gokshuru: This herb is known for its ability to improve kidney function, tone the nerves, relieve muscle cramps, improve circulation and reduce inflammation in the body.
– Ashgourd: It is a natural source of calcium and magnesium which are essential for the proper functioning of muscles. It is also an excellent diuretic which helps in flushing out toxins from the body.
– Dasamoola: It is an Ayurvedic herb which helps in strengthening the nerves and muscles. It is also an excellent diuretic and helps in flushing out toxins from the body.
– Punarnava: This Ayurvedic herb is a natural diuretic and helps in flushing out toxins from the body. It also helps in toning the muscles and nerves.
These herbs can be taken in the form of capsules, tablets, tinctures, or teas. Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbal medications.
Diet and best foods for muscle cramp treatment
While there are many potential treatments for muscle cramps, including stretching and massage, what you eat can also play a role in preventing and treating muscle cramps.
- Dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps, so it is important to make sure that you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Aim for eight glasses of water per day, or more if you are sweating excessively.
- You can also try adding electrolytes to your water, such as sodium, potassium, or magnesium. These minerals are important for muscle function and can help to prevent cramps.
- Certain foods can also help to prevent or treat muscle cramps.
Ayurvedic Tips for Muscle Cramps Relief
There are many effective Ayurveda treatment options that can provide relief from Muscle Cramps. Some of these include:
– Massaging the affected area: Massaging the affected muscle with warm oil can help to improve blood circulation and reduce muscle tension. This can reduce pain and spasms. For massage, use Ayurvedic medicated oils or essential oils to get maximum benefit.
– Herbal Supplements: There are many helpful herbal supplements that can be used to treat mineral and vitamin deficiencies in muscle cramps. Some examples are: ginger, moringa, flax seeds, sesame seeds, raisins and figs.
– Stretching and exercise: Stretching and light exercise can help to strengthen the muscles and prevent cramps. Regular stretches improve muscle tone and induce growth of muscle tissues in the areas being exercised. When in pain, you should do gentle massage and then perform light stretches to relieve pain and relax muscles.
– Heat Therapy (Swedna): Applying heat to the affected area can help to relax the muscles and reduce pain. Heat therapy can be applied with a heating pad, warm water bottle, or warm bath along with essential oils. This helps to balance the vata dosha and improve circulation in the affected area.
– Acupuncture: This is a form of Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the skin at specific points. It can help to relieve pain and relax the muscles.
– Ice Therapy (Vedna): Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and pain. Ice therapy can be applied with an ice pack or cold compress. This helps to balance the kapha dosha and reduce swelling in the affected area.
– Taking a warm bath: This can help to relax the muscles and reduce pain. Add a few drops of essential oil to the bathwater for added benefit.
Muscle Cramps are common problem in women and men over the age of 40, although they can occur at any age. Most of the time muscular cramps resolve on their own when you change your diet & lifestyle. Yet, if you are experiencing chronic pain and recurrent spasms; it is important to speak to a doctor to find out the cause.
Ayurveda offers effective natural remedies for muscle cramp treatment. Ayurvedic diet, lifestyle and medication provides a holistic natural avenue for permanent relief from health symptoms at the root cause level.
Consult with Medhya’s Ayurvedic Health Experts to get your personalised health plan involving prescription for Ayurvedic medicine, diet, yoga and lifestyle guidelines.
1. How can I stop my legs from cramping at night?
There are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of experiencing leg cramps at night. First, make sure that you are staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids during the day. This will help to keep your muscles and nerves hydrated, which can reduce the likelihood of cramping. Secondly, avoid wearing tight clothing or shoes that constrict blood flow to your legs. Third, stretch your legs before going to bed to help prevent cramping. Finally, massage your legs with a warm, dry cloth before bedtime. This will help to loosen any knots or tension in your muscles, which can also contribute to cramping. By following these simple tips, you can help to reduce the occurrence of leg cramps at night.
2. What vitamin deficiency causes leg cramps at night?
There are many different causes of leg cramps at night, but one of the most common is a vitamin deficiency. Vitamin B12, in particular, plays an important role in nerve function and muscle health. When levels of this vitamin are low, it can lead to cramping and discomfort. A lack of magnesium can also cause leg cramps. This mineral is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, and a deficiency can lead to spasms and pain. There are many other possible causes of leg cramps, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and underlying medical conditions. However, if you experience recurrent leg cramps that seem to be related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency, it is important to speak to your doctor. They can recommend supplements or diet changes that may help to relieve your symptoms.
3. When should I be concerned about leg cramps at night?
According to Ayurvedic principles, leg cramps at night can be indicative of an imbalance in the body. When the body is out of balance, it can cause a build-up of toxins, which can lead to muscle cramps and pain. If you are experiencing leg cramps at night, it is important to consult with an Ayurvedic doctor to determine the underlying cause. There are many possible causes of leg cramps at night, including dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and magnesium deficiency. An Ayurvedic doctor will be able to assess your individual situation and recommend a course of treatment that will help to bring the body back into balance. Leg cramps at night can be a nuisance, but by following an Ayurvedic treatment plan, they can be resolved quickly and effectively.