Nocturnal calf spasms are pains that occur in the lower portions of the legs during the night. These painful spasms can wake you up from your sleep, but may also occur at night during periods of inactivity while you are awake. These nocturnal calf spasms can cause the muscle to feel tight, achy and knotted. The spasm may last up to several minutes, however, they usually dissipate with time leaving the muscle fatigued and sore.
Nocturnal calf spasms may result due to a number of reasons. Foot and sleeping positioning, sedentary lifestyle, muscle overexertion and/or sustained postures can all increase the chances of developing nocturnal calf spasms.
Foot and Sleeping Position – Often we sleep with our feet and toes pointing towards the end of the bed, this position is called plantar flexion. In plantar flexion, our calf muscles shorten, making them more susceptible to nocturnal calf spasms.
Sedentary Lifestyle – For our calf muscles to function efficiently they need to be regularly worked and stretched. Unfortunately, most of the jobs we do require extended periods of sitting. This seated position reduces the amount we work and stretch our calves, increasing their chances of spasming.
Muscle Overexertion – As with any skeletal muscle in our body, too much exercise can overload the muscles leading to chronic tightness and spasming, which may increase the likelihood of nocturnal calf spasm.
Sustained Postures – Improper sitting, prolonged standing or other sustained postures may increase the chances of developing nocturnal calf spasm. For example – sitting with your legs crossed and toes pointed creates a shortening of the calf muscles, increasing the chances of developing nocturnal calf spasms.
Read On To Find Out The 4 Best Ways To Relieve Calf Spasm At Night…
If you do experience nocturnal calf spasms there are a number of methods you can try to reduce the pain and spasm in the short term.
- Massage your leg – Massaging and applying moderate to deeper pressure to the affected muscle, in this case the calf, may help to release the spasm. Using one or both hands to gently knead and apply pressure to the spasmed area, this causes the muscle to relax and loosen reducing pain. It may be helpful to book an appointment with your soft tissue occupational therapist to further release the spasm in the meantime. A soft tissue occupational therapist may assist in the treatment of your calf spasm by providing hands-on neuromuscular techniques, such as trigger point therapy, dry needling or myofascial release to improve functioning of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. These neuromuscular techniques work to break down fibrous adhesions, releasing tight muscles and correcting improper muscle functioning and postures. A hands-on approach to treatment can help to resolve a tissue, joint or muscle imbalance and assist in increasing circulation of fresh, healthy blood towards an area increasing drainage of unhealthy, toxic fluid away from the area. This increased nutrition and removal of toxins from the damaged tissue enhances the body’s natural healing response and speeds up recovery. A soft tissue occupational therapists will also work to develop and recommend stretching and strengthening regimes to assist in alleviating symptoms and prevent recurring and calf spasm. An occupational therapist will also explore lifestyle factors, such as sleep positioning or workplace ergonomics, which may be contributing to your calf spasm and set up a personalized treatment plan that reduces your symptoms.
- Stretch – If you are experiencing a nocturnal calf spasm, try to straighten your leg and flex your foot so that it is lifted towards the sky. This may help to counteract the spasm by lengthening your calf muscle.
- Apply heat – Using and applying heat to the calf muscles can soothe the tight, spasmed muscles. Try applying a heat pack, hot water bottle, or warm towel to the affected area. You may also choose to take a warm bath, or shower, or apply a heat balm such as tiger balm or eagle balm. The heat increases the circulation of the blood flow throughout the area, enhancing the delivery of nutrients to the muscles, aiding in repair, and reducing the symptoms of muscle spasm.
- Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can help relieve tenderness and pain after a nocturnal calf spasm. It is important to address the underlying cause of the nocturnal calf spasm, not just treat the symptom. A soft tissue occupational therapist may be able to assist in determining the root cause of the nocturnal calf spasm and treat it appropriately.
At Infused Health our highly trained Soft Tissue Occupational Therapists will use a hands on approach to help treat your injuries, conditions or any concerns you may have. You can make an appointment today by calling 0401 876 623.