Causes and therapy for leg cramps

Leg cramps, or charley horses, are a typical drawback that have an effect on the toes, calves, and thigh muscle groups. They contain sudden, painful involuntary contractions of a leg muscle.

They usually happen whereas an individual is sleeping or resting. They are often gone in just a few seconds, however the common length is 9 minutes. They’ll depart tenderness within the muscle for as much as 24 hours after.

Generally the explanation for leg cramps isn’t discovered, and they’re thought of innocent. Generally, nevertheless, they could be linked to an underlying dysfunction, equivalent to diabetes or peripheral artery illness.Quick information on leg cramps

Listed below are some key factors about leg cramps. Extra element is in the principle article.

  • Leg cramps mostly have an effect on the calf muscle.
  • They sometimes solely final a couple of minutes, however the ache can final for 24 hours.
  • They’re extra widespread in older age and through being pregnant.
  • Most frequently, leg cramps aren’t any trigger for concern and don’t have any medical significance.
  • Threat elements might embody dehydration, some drugs, flat toes, and alcohol abuse.


Cramps are typically not an indication of an underlying situation.

Generally, there isn’t any underlying trigger and the explanation why cramps occur is unclear.

They’re regarded as brought on by muscle fatigue and nerve dysfunction, however precisely how they occur is unclear.

It has been recommended that the way in which we sleep, with the foot stretched out and the calf muscle groups shortened, might set off evening cramps. One other concept is that cramps are extra seemingly these days, as folks not squat, a place that stretches the calf muscle groups.

Train is one issue. Stressing or utilizing a muscle for a very long time might set off a leg cramp throughout or after the exertion. Cramps usually have an effect on athletes, particularly in the beginning of a season, if the physique is out of situation. Nerve injury might play a task.

Dehydration is thought to play a task. Athletes who train strenuously in sizzling climate usually expertise cramps. Nevertheless, there’s a lack of proof to substantiate this, and the idea has been disputed. Athletes who play in cool climates additionally get cramps, in any case.

Generally the leg cramps are brought on by an underlying situation, scenario or exercise.

Different circumstances which will trigger cramps are:

  • Addison’s illness
  • alcohol abuse
  • cirrhosis
  • diarrhea
  • flatfeet
  • gastric bypass surgical procedure
  • hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid
  • persistent kidney failure
  • hypolalemia
  • hemodialysis
  • sort 2 diabetes
  • most cancers therapy
  • lead poisoning
  • sarcoidosis, a illness wherein small growths or lumps produce irritation or swelling of the tissues in any a part of the physique
  • muscle fatigue
  • vascular illness and venous insufficiency
  • motor neuron issues
  • oral contraception
  • Parkinson’s illness
  • peripheral artery illness (PAD)
  • being pregnant, particularly within the later phases
  • use of some drugs, together with intravenous iron sucrose, conjugated estrogens, naproxen, raloxifene, and teriparatide

Cramps have been linked to electrolysis imbalances, however reseach has not supported these theories.

Older individuals are extra seemingly to expertise leg cramps. Muscle loss begins from the mid-40s and will increase if the particular person is just not energetic. This will increase the chance of cramps.

Between 50 and 60 p.c of adults and seven p.c of kids are believed to expertise cramps, and the chance will increase with age.

They’re extra widespread throughout being pregnant.

House treatments

Senior woman with leg pain having massage after running

A mild therapeutic massage can assist relieve leg cramps.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) suggests:

  • stopping the exercise that brought about the cramp
  • stretching and massaging the muscle
  • holding the leg within the stretched place till the cramp stops
  • making use of warmth to muscle groups which can be tight or tense (warmth packs are obtainable to buy on-line)
  • utilizing chilly packs on tender muscle groups

Some folks use dietary supplements, equivalent to magnesium to scale back muscle cramps, however a overview revealed in 2012 concluded that older adults had been unlikely to profit from this therapy, and that it was unclear whether or not they would profit ladies throughout being pregnant.

Anecdotal proof has recommended that delicate train simply earlier than bedtime, equivalent to a couple of minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill, might assist.


No treatment is advisable for cramps.

If a extreme cramp leaves a muscle feeling tender, an over-the-counter (OTC) painkiller might assist.

Quinine has been used up to now, however it’s not advisable, in keeping with suggestions revealed by the American Household Doctor (AFP). The FDA issued a warning in 2010 about probably harmful interactions and uncomfortable side effects.

There’s restricted proof that train and stretching, calcium channel blockers, carisoprodol, and vitamin B-12 might assist. Multivitamins could also be of some use throughout being pregnant.

There’s no proof that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine (NSAIDs), calcium, or potassium are of any profit.

Workout routines and stretches

Man stretching his legs by touching his toes

Stretching can assist stop future cramps.

If there isn’t any underlying trigger, the leg cramps will most likely get higher with out therapy.

Stretching workouts might assist.

If the cramp is within the calf muscle you may strive these:

  • Straighten the leg and pull the toes up towards the knee, to stretch the calf muscle.
  • Stroll on tiptoes for a couple of minutes.
  • Stand about one meter from a wall along with your toes flat on the bottom. Lean ahead in opposition to the wall along with your arms outstretched and your fingers flat on the wall. Maintain the heels on the bottom. Maintain for 10 seconds, then gently return to an upright place. Repeat 5 to 10 occasions.

These workouts might assist relieve cramp and in addition stop future episodes, if they’re executed two or 3 times a day.


The next measures might also assist stop leg cramps.

  • Supporting your toes when mendacity down or asleep by propping up the toes with a pillow or letting the toes cling over the sting of the mattress.
  • Retaining bedding unfastened to assist stop the toes and toes from pointing downward throughout sleep.
  • Sporting appropriate footwear, particularly when you have flat toes and different foot issues.

Retaining match by getting sufficient train can assist. For those who train, be certain your program is appropriate and that your progress is gradual. Keep away from overexertion and coaching for extended intervals, and at all times keep in mind to heat up earlier than you begin.