Leg cramps at night or at rest are almost always related to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). A leg cramp is the involuntary tightening of the calf and surrounding muscles, sometimes including muscles in the foot. The sensation is usually described as sharp pain lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Residual pain may linger in the area of the cramp for hours after the affected muscle(s) first cramped.
Leg cramps occur because of poor blood circulation in the legs due to blood pooling caused by CVI. In areas of poor circulation, nutrients and oxygen are restricted from reaching the muscles, resulting in a build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue, which causes the muscle(s) to constrict.
Women over the age of 50 or Individuals who spend long lengths of time on their feet (EMS workers, retailers, food service workers) are at a greater risk for developing chronic venous insufficiency. A family history of CVI, obesity and high blood pressure, or a particularly idle lifestyle may also increase risk.
For immediate relief, individuals can try gently stretching and massaging the affected muscles. Compression stockings or elevating the feet several times a day for 15 to 30 minutes may be prescribed for some patients to help drain pooling blood and improve circulation.
Ultimately, the chronic venous insufficiency condition must be addressed. There are a few minimally invasive but highly effective forms of treatment for CVI, including endovenous radiofrequency ablation (RFA), ambulatory phlebectomy, and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy.
If you experience leg cramps at night or during the day and believe they may be related to CVI, schedule a consultation today to learn more about the treatments available to you.