Tip to tackle night cramps

There are all sorts of reasons why people don't sleep well. A particularly uncomfortable one is when night cramp occurs. When people get this they sometimes have to literally throw themselves out of bed and walk around on a cold floor until the spasm subsides.

In days gone-by folk used all sorts of remedies to try to alleviate it. People put corks, rabbit's feet or an old nail in the bottom of their bed. A particular favourite remedy in Yorkshire, apparently, was to wear garters made of eel-skin. I have no idea whether or not they work, but I would recommend a simple acupressure technique to try.

It is estimated that about a third of the over 60s get this problem on a regular basis. And it can be really painful, some people experiencing a bruised feeling for several hours afterwards. The cramp results from the calf muscles going into sudden involuntary spasm, so that the toes point downwards and the individual feels great pain in the back of the calf. It most often occurs when one turns over in bed or when one stretches the foot downwards.

Sudden severe cramp in the calf, especially after prolonged bed rest, or after a fracture of the leg should not be ignored, since a thrombosis of the deep veins (DVT) is possible. If there is swelling of one calf then an urgent medical opinion is necessary.

So what can you do about night cramps? Firstly, don't let yourself get dehydrated, especially if you have been exercising. One of the best things that one can do to prevent it is to get into the habit of incorporating calf stretching into your day.

Simply stand about a yard from a wall with the soles of your feet kept flat on the ground, then rest your hands flat against the wall and do a few (five or six) gentle press-ups against the wall. Do this two or three times a day. Try also rotating your ankles and wiggling your toes whenever you sit down to eat or watch TV.

Once you get into bed try to avoid pointing your toes. Make sure that you don't have very heavy bed covers, since they might just force the toes downwards to produce the cramps.

Now for my acupressure technique. You may just be surprised at its effectiveness. It depends upon pressing on an acupuncture point called Renzhong, or DU 26. It is a tiny area one third of the way between the bottom of the nose and the top of the upper lip. Simply find this spot and stimulate it in the following way when you have cramp. Apply slowly increasing pressure with your thumb in a slightly circular manner for 10 seconds. Then maintain this pressure for 20 more seconds, before slowly releasing over a further 10 seconds. Repeat the process if you need to. You might also try doing it before you go to sleep.