What Are the Causes of Night Leg Pain?

Just when it is time to unwind and give the legs a much-needed break, leg pain at night can ruin any plans for rest. Night leg pain is so common that it is difficult to meet a person who has not experienced total sleep disruption as a result. Men, women and children have experienced this phenomenon. The causes of night leg pain might be from restless leg syndrome, nocturnal leg cramps or growing pains.

A woman is rubbing her sore calf. (Image: phototake/iStock/Getty Images)

Restless Leg Syndrome

There are some leg pains that occur during leg activity. However, the onset of restless leg syndrome, or RLS, begins as soon as the legs are at rest. According to MayoClinic.com, symptoms vary from person to person but might include sensations of burning, aching, tugging or pulling. Although women suffer from this syndrome more often then men, both genders who experience RLS find that instead of continued rest, pain subsides with continued movement. Relief for RLS symptoms that disrupt night sleep might come from walking, pacing or exercising the legs.

Nocturnal Leg Cramps

Nocturnal leg cramps have been known to wake sufferers from a sound sleep. Men and women are candidates for this kind of night leg pain due to cramps. The leg pain often originates in the calf muscle and occurs suddenly without warning. The Cleveland Clinic website states that leg cramps are painful and might last up to 10 minutes. To bring relief from night leg cramps, stretching the calf muscle, straightening the leg or pulling the toes upward might relieve the pain. Sufferers from night leg cramps often feel compelled to massage the leg for relief and a return to sleep.

Growing Pains

Children experience night leg pains that are referred to as growing pains. According to the pediatrics website Dr. Green, bone growth occurs at night and is common in children, at times causing pain that disturbs sleep patterns. Dr. Green goes on to state that, "During these spurts of growth, children often complain of nighttime leg pain, hence the common label growing pains. Most often, growing pains will feel like a sharp throbbing pain. The pain can occasionally even be strong enough to wake the child up from sleep." The pain might last between one to 15 minutes. Gentle massage to the afflicted area helps to reduce the pain.

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