For most people, night leg cramps are merely an annoyance — something that jerks you awake infrequently. But in some cases, you may need to see a doctor.
Seek immediate medical care if you have
- Severe and persistent cramping
- Night leg cramps after being exposed to a toxin, such as lead
Schedule an office visit if you
- Have trouble functioning during the day because leg cramps interrupt your sleep
- Develop muscle weakness and atrophy with leg cramps
Activities that might help prevent night leg cramps include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
- Stretching your leg muscles or riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before you go to bed
- Untucking the bed covers at the foot of your bed
Activities that might help relieve night leg cramps include:
- Flexing your foot up toward your head
- Massaging the cramped muscle with your hands or with ice
- Walking or jiggling the leg
- Taking a hot shower or warm bath
Although once widely used, the medication quinine is no longer recommended because of risks associated with its use.
Dec. 09, 2020
- Winkelman JW. Nocturnal leg cramps. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 28, 2015.
- Monderer RS, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. 2010;10:53.
- Allen RE, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps. American Family Physician. 2012;86:350.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 1, 2015.
- Garrison SR, et al. Nocturnal leg cramps and prescription use that precedes them. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172:120.