I am often asked by my patients what causes night cramps in their muscles. The cause of cramps is active trigger points in the muscle group affected. It can occur in any muscle in the body but predominantly it affects the muscles in the legs: the calf muscles, the tibialis anterior which is in the shin, the intrinsic muscles of the foot, and the quadriceps and hamstring muscles in the thigh. It can affect any number of muscles at one time.
A trigger point is best described as a focal point of tension within a muscle. A muscle quite simply is a biological electrical engine. All electrical devices have some type of overload switch. A fuse or a safety switch trips when the motor is being overloaded and is in danger of being damaged. Trigger points perform this role in a muscle. So if a muscle is being overloaded the trigger point will activate. The muscle will go into a failsafe mode where part of the muscle locks and shuts down. Then it will only work partially and the muscle will shorten and weaken. Stretching the muscle out will not fix the problem as it will recoil into this position again within a few minutes.
When a trigger point in a muscle is activated it usually causes pain but not always, sometimes it can manifest as cramps. This can occur at night because the muscle is resting (night cramps) or it can occur during or after exercise.
A magnesium supplement can help to reduce the cramps but will not get rid of them. As soon as you stop taking the supplement the cramps will return.
In order to fix this problem the trigger points need to be released. The skilled physiotherapists at Alpha Physiotherapy can do this for you and in most cases it only takes 2 treatments.
If you have any further questions or suffer from night cramps or any other muscle conditions, please feel free to contact Alpha Physio and book an appointment on (07) 3279 3871.