Nocturnal leg cramps in adults are a common problem with some sources reporting that approximately 30% of adults over 60 experiences some form of nocturnal leg cramps.
Nocturnal leg cramps usually affect the calf muscles and intrinsic foot muscles, and are characterized by strong involuntary contraction of muscles that can be extremely painful. While benign and transient in nature, it can be a source of considerable distress for patients.
A recent randomized trial looked at nightly stretching of the calf and hamstring muscles in a group of 80 adults aged over 55 years who experienced night cramps. One group performed nightly stretching of the calf and hamstring muscles before bed for 6 weeks, the other did not receive any exercises, both carried on other normal activities.
Results at 6 weeks showed a decrease in frequency in the stretching group by 1.2 cramps a night (35% reduction overall) and a decrease in pain intensity of 1.3 points as measured on a 10 point VAS.
Hallegraeff et al (2012) Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults: a randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy,(58)1,17-22.