If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night with pain and tension in your leg muscle, you know what it means to experience a leg cramp. Leg cramps are contractions that occur involuntarily in the muscles of the calf, thigh or feet. In most cases, leg cramps are harmless, but they can be associated with certain conditions and medications. If your leg cramps are accompanied by any other symptoms, are persistent or begin to interfere with your life, consult a doctor.
Exercise and Stretch
When leg cramps strike, get up, move around, jiggle your leg or gently stretch the tight muscle. If your calf muscle tightens, for example, extend the leg and gently flex the foot back toward your shin. Once the cramp subsides, continue stretching to prevent recurrence. Sit on the floor and reach for your toes, flexing them back as much as possible. Continued stretching will lengthen and loosen the muscle, which helps prevent the cramp from returning.
Sports injury management specialist Patrice Morency suggests, in "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies II," using acupressure for relief from leg cramps. This is a technique commonly used by athletes. When your leg cramps, pinch your bottom lip between your thumb and forefinger, then squeeze for approximately 30 seconds. Morency states that this pressure point may help reduce the duration and severity of your leg cramp.
Heat and Cold
The Cleveland Clinic suggests massaging the cramped muscle or applying ice to the affected area to reduce pain and help the muscle relax. Wrap a washcloth or towel around a handful of ice cubes, then apply the ice directly to the cramping muscle. If ice is unavailable, rinse a towel in cold water, then apply the towel to the cramped area. If the leg cramp persists, soak the area in a warm bath or take a warm shower to relax and loosen the affected muscle.
- Cleveland Clinic: Nocturnal Leg Cramps
- Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Leg Cramps
- The Doctors Book of Home Remedies; Sid Kirchheimer and Editors of Prevention Magazine Health Books