How To Stop Leg Cramps
If you’re like most people, you’ve experienced the excruciating pain of a muscle cramp in your leg. These spasms usually come on suddenly while you’re in bed and the pain can last a few seconds, a few minutes or longer.
Though nighttime leg cramps are common, experts don't know exactly what causes them. Some possibilities include dehydration, not having enough potassium, calcium or other minerals in your system, over or under-use of the leg muscle, or taking diuretics or statins. Whatever the cause of your leg cramps, if you’re having one, you want it to be over and fast. You can try:
WALKING AROUND: Get out of bed and walk around the room. If you don’t feel like leaving the comfort of your covers, you can also try just shaking your leg, but this may not be as effective.
STRETCHING: To stretch your calf, straighten your leg and flex your foot up toward your knee.
ICE: Rubbing the calf with an ice pack may help, but don’t leave the ice in one place. You want to avoid ice “burn.”
SELF-MASSAGE: Rub the area vigorously to get the blood circulating. Massage the cramped muscle with your hands by stroking it firmly until the contraction subsides.
HEATING PAD: If the cramp persists add heat to the affected muscle using an electric heating pad, hot water bottle or microwavable heat pack. Leave the heat in place for 15 to 20 minutes to relieve pain and promote muscle relaxation.
SHOWER OR BATH: If the muscle is still cramping, take a warm bath or shower.
Speak with your doctor if you have muscle cramps that keep coming back, are severe, or occur in other muscles of your body. It’s rare, but leg cramps may be symptoms of another condition.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."