at night muscle crampsThe lights are out, you’re just about to sleep, and they hit: muscle cramps at night.

If you’re lucky, they’re an annoyance keeping you awake.

If you’re unlucky, they’re painful enough to bring tears to your eyes.

Either way, pretending you don’t have muscle cramps at night is impossible, wishing them away doesn’t work, and hoping tomorrow night will be better gets you nowhere.

You have to deal with your nighttime muscle cramps.

Why ARE Your Muscles Cramping?

As with anything else, it helps to deal with muscle cramps at night if you know why you’re experiencing them in the first place. Generally speaking, there are five common reasons for muscles to cramp at night.

1. Injury
2. Fatigue or overuse
3. Dehydration
4. Mineral deficiency – especially potassium, magnesium, and/or calcium
5. Medications

If you have an injury, or even suspect one is causing your muscle cramps at night, be sure to see a doctor in order to learn the best, safest course of treatment.

Likewise, if your muscle cramps at night have coincided with a new prescription or change in medication, talk to your prescriber about potential side effects.

The two of you may decide that there are other alternatives that won’t cause cramping.

Otherwise, there are ways you may be able to prevent muscle cramps at night – and ways to treat them until you can control them.

Preventing Muscle Cramps at Night

The easiest way to deal with muscle cramps at night is to prevent them from ever happening in the first place.

1. Pay attention to how much and how often you exercise. Muscle cramps at night are an indication that you may have increased your workouts too quickly. This is especially common for people just starting a new exercise routine. It’s easy to think that you’re still as in shape as you were last time you went for a run, a bike ride, or even took on the weeds in the garden. But if it’s been a while, your muscles won’t thank you for overdoing it right out of the box. However, even if you’ve been exercising, increasing your resistance, time, or distance too quickly can still lead to muscle cramps at night. Rather than push your body into a more intense routine all at once, increase your workout incrementally over the course of a few weeks.

2. Stretch – the right way. People used to believe that static stretching, or stretching a cold muscle, was important before any workout. Over the years, that school of thought has been debunked. Stretching is still important, but make sure your muscles are warm first. Walk a lap, march in place, swim a few strokes – whatever you do, get your muscles awake and warm, then stretch them before getting into the meat of your workout. And don’t forget to stretch at the end of your exercise routine, either. Many people think that a cool down is enough, but muscle cramps at night may be your body’s way of telling you it needs more than that. So yes, cool down, but then stretch as well, to be certain to avoid cramping.

3. Stay hydrated. This is important year-round, but is vital in the hotter, summer months. And not just while you’re working out or being active. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and other decaffeinated liquids throughout the day. Muscles cramp when they get dehydrated. Don’t give them the chance.

4. Limit alcohol consumption. While a glass or two of wine a night is good for your heart, more can cause problems – including muscle cramps at night. Alcohol dehydrates, making it harder to keep your muscles as hydrated as they need to be. Limit your alcohol and make sure you have a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage you drink.

5. Eat for muscle health. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium are all essential to healthy, strong muscles. Being deficient in any of them can cause muscle cramps at night. So, make sure you’re getting bananas for potassium, nuts for magnesium, and yogurt for calcium. Or even better, load up on dark, leafy green vegetables and you’ll get all three nutrients in a single salad!

Treating Muscle Cramps at Night

Prevention is wonderful. It’s ideal. But it can also take some time to kick in and catch up. Which means some nights, your muscles cramp. When that happens, you aren’t thinking about how to prevent it from happening in the future. You’re thinking about how to alleviate the pain right now.

1. Stretch the muscle. Yes, earlier we said you shouldn’t stretch a static muscle. But that’s before a workout. Once the muscle is cramping, in order to alleviate the pain, you need to get it stretched out. Depending on which muscle is cramping, flexing your toe (calf muscle and hamstring) or bending your knee (quadriceps or shin) may be helpful. Just be sure to stretch gently and slowly to prevent injury.

2. Massage the muscle. While you’re stretching the muscle, try to massage it as well. Using the ball of you hand, rub the muscle lengthwise, applying as much pressure as you can stand. Between the stretching and the massage, the nighttime muscle cramps should begin to ease.

3. Apply warmth to the muscle. A heating pad or warm shower can help relax muscles, which often helps reduce and eventually eliminate muscles cramps at night or during the day. If you’re using a heating pad, keep a towel between it and your skin, and remove the pad after about twenty minutes.

4. Try ice. Some people find that ice causes muscles to contract and cramp even more. Other people find it calms the nerves, which reduces the cramping, and eases the pain. As with heat, keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack, and remove the ice after twenty minutes.

5. Use a topical pain reliever. Muscle cramps at night hurt. That’s the bottom line. So relieve the pain with a topical pain reliever, like Soothanol X2. Topical pain relievers are best for muscle cramps because they’re targeted exactly where the pain is and go to work in seconds. No waiting around for an oral pain reliever to make its way through your system.

Don’t spend another night awake and in pain. Deal with your muscle cramps at night, and get the sleep you need to enjoy your days!