Leg Cramps : Causes, Prevention, Risk Factors And Treatment


An uncontrollable, abrupt spasm of one or more of your muscles is known as a muscle cramp. Muscle cramps may be quite painful if you have ever been startled awake in the middle of the night or halted in your tracks by a sudden charley horse. Muscle cramps might briefly prevent you from using the afflicted muscle even though they are usually innocuous.

Long-term physical exertion or employment, especially in warm weather, can cause muscle cramps. Muscle cramps can also be brought on by several drugs and medical disorders. Muscle cramps are typically treatable at home using self-care techniques.

Leg cramps occur when a muscle in the leg shortens, resulting in intense discomfort and difficulty moving.

The duration of the cramping might range from a few seconds to several minutes.

They could impact the:

  • The calf muscle, the muscles in the foot or thighs towards the rear of the leg below the knee (less often)
  • The muscle may continue to feel pain for up to 24 hours after the cramp has passed.


Overuse, dehydration, strain, or even just keeping a position for too long can cause muscle cramps. Yet, the root reason is frequently unknown.

Despite the fact that the majority of muscular cramps are unrelated to any health issues, some may be caused by:

A poor blood supply. As you are exercising, cramp-like pain in your legs and feet may be caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to your legs (arteriosclerosis of the extremities). Usually, these pains go away shortly after you stop exercising.

Compressed nerves. Leg cramp-like discomfort can also be brought on by lumbar stenosis, which compresses the nerves in your spine. The longer you walk, typically, the greater the discomfort gets. Walking with your legs slightly extended, as if you were hauling a cart. Having a shopping cart in front of you might lessen or postpone the beginning of your symptoms.

Mineral deterioration. A diet lacking potassium, calcium, or magnesium might cause leg cramps. These minerals can also be depleted by diuretics, which are often recommended drugs for high blood pressure.

Although most cramps go away on their own, stretching and massaging the muscle may help to reduce pain.

Ibuprofen or paracetamol can reduce muscular aches after a cramp, but they will not assist while one is happening since they take too long to take effect.

Frequent calf stretches may lessen cramps, although they might not entirely prevent them from occurring.

Leg cramps may occasionally result from:

  • Ageing
  • Exercising too vigorously, can be harmful during pregnancy and made worse by hot or humid conditions (usually in the later stage)
  • Some medications, such as statins, which decrease cholesterol and hypertension (diuretics)
  • Not enough fluids consumed (dehydration)
  • Alcoholism-related liver illness
  • There is no recognized cause for certain cramping.

How to check if you have Leg Cramps?

The majority of the time, muscle cramps go away on their own and seldom get severe enough to need medical attention. Please seek medical assistance, if your cramps contribute to the following:

  • Bring about great suffering
  • Are connected to leg oedema, rosacea, or skin alterations
  • Are connected to muscular tremor
  • Occur often
  • Self-care will not help you get well
  • Are not connected to a clear cause, such rigorous exercise

Risk Factors

You may be more susceptible to experiencing muscular cramps if you have:

Age. Elderly adults have less muscular mass, which makes it easier for the remaining muscle to become overworked.

Dehydration. When partaking in warm-weather sports, athletes who are tired and dehydrated commonly have muscular cramps.

Pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy, muscle cramps are also frequent.

ailment conditions. If you have diabetes or any other nerve, liver, or thyroid diseases, your chance of experiencing muscular cramps may increase.


The majority of cramps affect the muscles in the legs, especially the calf. Together with the sudden, severe pain, you could also detect or feel a hard lump of muscle tissue.


Some actions might assist to avoid cramps:

To prevent dehydration. Every day, consume lots of liquids. The quantity is influenced by your diet, your sex, how active you are, the weather, your health, your age, and any drugs you are taking. Fluids keep muscle cells hydrated and less irritated while also assisting with muscular contraction and relaxation. When engaging in physical activity, refresh your fluids at regular intervals, and once you are done, keep sipping water or other fluids.

Get your muscles moving. Your muscles should be stretched both before and after any extended use. Stretch before going to sleep if you frequently have leg cramps at night. Mild activity, like a few minutes on a stationary bike before bed, can also help reduce cramps while you're sleeping.


Muscle cramps are often manageable with self-care techniques. Your doctor might recommend stretches that will lessen your risk of developing muscular cramps. Maintaining proper hydration is also beneficial. Your doctor could suggest a drug to calm your muscles if you get frequent cramps that keep you up at night.

Several acts may be helpful for cramp relief:

Massage and stretches. To assist the tight muscle relaxation, gently stretch and massage it. Put your weight on the leg that is experiencing a calf cramp while bending your knee just a little. Sit on the floor or in a chair with your afflicted leg outstretched if you are unable to stand.

While keeping your leg straight, try bringing the top of the foot on the afflicted side towards your head. Moreover, this will relieve hamstring (back thigh) cramps. Use a chair to keep yourself steady while trying to lift your foot on the afflicted side up towards your buttock to relieve a front thigh (quadriceps) cramp.

Apply cold or heat. Use a hot cloth or using a heating pad on stiff or constricted muscles. Hot showers or warm baths targeted at the painful muscle may be helpful. Alternately, using ice on the tense muscle may provide pain relief.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 16, 2023

Next review due: Mar 16, 2025

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