Calf Cramps in the Night

Question: My left calf cramps up three or four times a week at night during sleep. The sudden pain is excruciating and can last for up to a minute. Has my diet had anything to do with this, and how can I prevent the cramps from occurring? I am a 30-something man who is not very active physically.

Answer: Calf cramps can develop due to different underlying problems. Sometimes it could be as simple as tightness in the muscles or electrolyte imbalances. Such cramps are not usually due to diet but can be attributed to a person’s physical fitness and overall health. Sometimes cramping can also be due to issues in the lower back, particularly if symptoms occur in both legs. It might be worthwhile touching base with a medical professional to seek further advice if your symptoms persist.

Dr Dinesh Sirisena
Sports Medicine
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

Related: 11 Ways To Relieve Leg Pains

Waking Up to Lower Back Ache

Sudden lower back pain can be caused by various factors.

Question: There’s an ache in my lower back when I wake. It hurts when I bend to fold the blanket or pick up the pillow. The strain goes away after half an hour or so. I don’t recall hurting my back in any activity; the ache just happened one morning when I got up from bed. I changed my mattress eight months ago and felt nothing until recently. I am a 43-year-old man.

Answer: There are many possible causes to back pain. It is important to understand the nature of the pain, i.e., where it originates from, and whether there are any aggravating or relieving factors for the pain.

The severity of pain is important as it may give a clue as to whether it is a muscle spasm, nerve impingement, disc problem, inflammation of the nerve, or pain referred from other parts of the body. You need to look out for signs and symptoms that require further investigation. These include sudden changes in your bowel or bladder habits and/or numbness around the groin area. You also need to look out for signs that are chronic and persisting, relapsing with lots of pain at night, or if this pain that is associated with morning stiffness gets better after some stretches.

The pain may also be linked to a family history of chronic back problems, related eye redness, chronic skin rashes and kidney problems.

Most times, backaches are from non-specific causes. Work-related conditions like strain from repetitive movements or poor office ergonomics usually resolve on their own. However, in about 30 per cent of cases, the issue will recur within six months to one year if poor workplace conditions are not identified and changed.

To manage backaches, start by identifying and eliminating triggers that cause your backache and maintaining a good posture. Make small changes like modifying your workstation to help improve your posture and taking regular breaks. When the aches subside, keep to an active lifestyle or start on some exercises if you have not already done so. Getting a good night’s sleep and managing stress also helps.

Dr Richard Lee
Family Physician
Clementi Polyclinic
National Healthcare Group Polyclinics

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