Calf cramps stop a healthy runner in his tracks. Leg spasms wake peaceful sleepers without warning. Cramps occur in the toes, feet and leg muscles. Because, in most cases, a runner cannot have immediate relief to stop the pain of a spasm or cramp, he should learn to prevent them in the first place.
Toe and Foot Cramps
If a person is running when he gets a cramp in the toe or foot, he should stop and rest the toe or foot. He should then remove his shoes and gently pull the toe outward away from the foot. Massaging the toe or foot outward in the direction of the muscle will remedy the cramp almost immediately. Rubbing across the muscle could make it worse. Cooling the feet will help. If a stream is nearby, he should cool the foot by dipping it in the water. Rehydrating with a sports drinks will help with toe or foot cramps also. When the cramp is gone, it will be safe to continue the run or hike. Medical help is only necessary if the cramp will not subside.
Leg and Calf Cramps
One immediate remedy for calf cramps is to stand on the leg and very gently lean forward to stretch the cramping muscle. Then the person should hold the stretch until the cramp goes away. Also, he should stop exercising, move to a cool area, rest the leg and drink a sports drink or water to rehydrate. Heat and stress will make the calf or leg cramp worse. Gentle massaging of the leg in the direction of the muscle may help. Taking anti-inflammatory medicines such as aspirin or ibuprofen may help.
Quadriceps and hamstring muscle cramps may be more severe and last longer. Prevention is the key to avoiding these leg cramps. A person should always warm up before stressing these large leg muscles and drink plenty of fluids and exercise when the weather is cool.
People who consume calcium, magnesium and vitamins B, D and E have reported successful muscle cramp reduction. Others do not find supplements helpful. It may be due to the different causes and types of muscle cramps.
Hot packs and cold packs relieve cramps.
According to Dr. Jim Mitterando, of the "Patriot Ledger", “Quinine is one of the few treatments shown to help reduce nocturnal cramps. Quinine is found in low concentrations in tonic water, one-tenth of prescription dose. Drinking eight to 16 ounces at night can be a simple remedy.”
There are prescription medicines available for muscle cramps, but they are not a good long-term remedy. Muscle relaxers will not be of benefit if the person's fitness goal is to increase muscle health.
Pregnant women and people with serious health problems should not exercise in the heat as this may cause a cramp. Pregnancy also depletes the body of magnesium, which can result in cramps.