Sleep-related leg cramps

Introduction
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By Pasquale Montagna MD

Sleep-related leg cramps are also known as or subsume Charley horse and Nocturnal leg cramps. -ed.

Sleep-related leg cramps are a sleep-related movement disorder whereby painful contractions of the calf muscles arise at sleep onset and during sleep and awaken the patient, interrupting sleep. Sleep-related leg cramps may be associated with muscle cramps during wakefulness and are encountered at all ages, but they are especially prevalent among the elderly. They result from a variety of pathologies, metabolic muscle and nerve disorders, electrolyte disturbances, vascular disease, and toxic and drug side effects. Sleep-related leg cramps may sometimes mimic and need to be differentiated from the manifestations of restless legs syndrome.

Key Points

  • Sleep-related leg cramps represent a common sleep-related movement disorder characterized by painful contractions of the muscles of the lower limbs during sleep.
  • This disorder can be either idiopathic or secondary to metabolic, vascular, or neurologic diseases or medications.
  • Diagnosis is clinical and requires exclusion of secondary forms; polysomnography may be helpful to rule out other conditions.
  • Treatment comprises nonpharmacological and pharmacological therapies.

 

In This Article

Introduction
Historical note and nomenclature
Clinical manifestations
Clinical vignette
Etiology
Pathogenesis and pathophysiology
Epidemiology
Prevention
Differential diagnosis
Diagnostic workup
Prognosis and complications
Management
Pregnancy
References cited
Contributors