Painful Legs and Moving Toes Syndrome. A rare disorder affecting one or both legs, painful legs and moving toes syndrome is marked by a constant, deep, throbbing ache in the limbs and involuntary toe movements. The discomfort may be mild or severe. It gets worse with activity and usually stops during sleep. Usually, the cause is unknown, though it may arise from spinal injuries or herpes zoster infection. The condition is difficult to treat, although the drug baclofen, combined with either clonazepam or carbamazepine, has shown some success. Other treatments that may help include orthotics for the shoes and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
Meralgia Paresthetica. An uncommon nerve condition, meralgia paresthetica causes numbness, pain, tingling, or burning on the front and side of the thigh. It usually occurs on one side of the body, and the cause may be compression of the thigh nerve as it passes through the pelvis. It typically occurs in people aged 30 - 60 years, but it can affect people of all ages. It often goes away on its own.
Nocturnal Leg Cramps
Cramps that awaken people during sleep are very common, and they are not part of restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder. They can be very painful and may cause a person jump out of bed in the middle of the night. They typically affect a specific area of the calf or the sole of the foot.
What Are Nocturnal Leg Cramps?
Benign nocturnal leg cramps, sometimes known as a charley horse, are muscle spasms in the calf that can occur one or many times during the night. Cramping may also occur in the soles of the feet. They typically last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Some people experience them regularly, others only on isolated occurrences.
Causes of Nocturnal Leg Cramps. In most cases, the cause of nocturnal leg cramps remains unknown. Among the conditions that might cause leg cramps are:
- Calcium and phosphorus imbalances, particularly during pregnancy
- Low potassium or sodium levels
- Overexertion, standing on hard surfaces for long periods, or prolonged sitting (especially with the legs contorted)
- Having structural disorders in the legs or feet (such as flat feet)
- Medical causes of muscle cramping include hypothyroidism, Addison's disease, uremia, hypoglycemia, anemia, and certain medications. Various diseases that affect nerves and muscles, such as Parkinson's, cause leg cramps. Peripheral neuropathy, a complication of diabetes, can cause cramp-like pain, numbness, or tingling in the legs. Patients with kidney disease undergoing dialysis are also prone to leg cramps.
Individuals at Higher Risk for Nocturnal Leg Cramps. Nocturnal leg cramps occur at all ages but peak at different times. They are particularly common in adolescence, during pregnancy, and in older age, affecting up to 70% of adults over age 50 at some point.
Pregnant women and those taking diuretics are also at risk for leg cramps because of low calcium levels and an imbalance in calcium and phosphorus.
Consequences of Nocturnal Leg Cramps. Nocturnal leg cramps, like restless legs syndrome, rarely have any serious consequences. However, they can be extremely painful and long lasting. In some cases, severe and persistent symptoms can cause chronic insomnia and considerable mental distress.
Review Date: 10/15/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.