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Plagued by leg cramps at night? GP reveals when and why you should see a doctor

CRAMP is a common condition that can simply be caused by being in one position for too long.

But if you’re waking up in the middle of the night with the uncomfortable sensation, then you’ll know how irritating it can be.

One expert has revealed that if you have frequent night time leg cramps then you could be lacking in magnesium

Speaking to The Sun, Dr Nisa Aslam, a practising GP in Hertfordshire, said night time leg cramps affect around 60 per cent of people at some point.

She explained they affect more women than men and increase in frequency the older we get.

In most cases they affect the calf muscle but can also affect the front and back of the thigh muscles, the GP said.

“It’s not always obvious why you are getting leg cramps. They may be related to your foot position in bed.

“We often sleep with our feet extending away from our bodies. This shortens the calf muscles, making them more susceptible to cramping.

“Other things that can contribute include sitting or standing still for long periods of time.

“Equally, overexertion of muscles due to excessive exercise can create an overworked muscle and risk of leg cramps,” says Dr Aslam, who is working with Aminoscience.

However, if your leg cramp is frequent, she added that your body could be lacking in magnesium.

She explained: “Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including muscle contraction and nerve transmission.

“Low magnesium causes low potassium and calcium because it disrupts their regulation which leads to muscle cramps and muscle weakness.

“The most recent National Diet and Nutrition survey shows that more than one in ten (11 per cent) adult women and 14 per cent of adult men have an intake of magnesium below the Lower Reference Intake (LRNI), a level at which deficiency is very likely,” she said.

Her comments come after a study published in the National Library of Medicine found that taking magnesium supplements could help with nocturnal leg cramps.

Most of the time we can get all of the vitamins and minerals we need from the food we eat.

But the findings of the study revealed those people who took over 200mg of magnesium daily had a significant reduction in cramps, compared to those who did not take the supplements.

If you think you’re lacking magnesium in your diet, Dr Aslam said you can add foods such as almonds, cashew nuts, grains, pulses and green vegetables such as spinach.

Processed foods have lower levels of magnesium and the body absorbs about 30 per cent less magnesium from food as we age, she said.

“Smoking and alcohol and some medications such as statins, diuretics and antacids reduce magnesium.

“Low levels of vitamin D also reduce magnesium absorption,” she added.

When to see a doctor?

Most of the time, leg cramp is nothing to worry about and Dr Aslam said occasional cramps aren’t a cause for concern.

However, she said if these have become frequent, you should see a doctor.

She added: “Leg cramps can be associated with other conditions such as motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, thyroid, liver and kidney problems, heart disease or circulatory disorders.

“So if you get leg cramps frequently, or if they are so painful, they disrupt your sleep and you are unable to function normally the next day, consult your GP.”

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