Muscle cramps cause sudden, intense pain that temporarily makes your calf muscle feel hard as a rock. Although the cramp eventually subsides, some pain may remain as an unpleasant reminder of your calf cramp. Using a few home care treatments can help to relieve lingering muscle pain after a cramp and make you feel more comfortable.
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Muscle cramps occur when your muscle contracts involuntarily and remains in the contracted position. Calf muscle cramps are among the most common type of muscle cramps, reports the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. A cramped muscle may twitch or feel hard to the touch. You may notice that the skin over the cramped muscle may stretch tight to accommodate the bulging muscle. Cramps may only last a few seconds before the muscle relaxes, but can last up to 15 minutes or longer. In some cases, cramps may occur in groups, with another cramp occurring just after one subsides.
Treating Muscle Pain
The force of the cramp, combined with the duration of the cramp, can leave your calf muscle sore and aching even after your muscle returns to its normal state. Putting ice on the calf muscle can help dull pain receptors and reduce pain. Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may provide temporary relief of pain. Gently massaging the calf muscle may also be helpful in reducing pain.
Staying hydrated during exposure to heat and humidity or while exercising can help you avoid cramps and the resulting muscle pain. Fluids lost during sweating can cause dehydration, a common cause of cramps. Overuse of your calf muscle during exercise increases your risk of developing calf muscles. Stretching before exercising and stopping the exercise at the first sign of twitching or cramping can help to prevent a cramp. While cramps often occur while you are physically active, they can also occur while you are asleep. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide recommends wearing shoes with good support and keeping blankets loose around your feet while you sleep to reduce the chance of nocturnal leg cramps. Increasing your potassium intake by eating such foods as papayas, bananas or cantaloupe can also reduce cramps if they occur due to a lack of potassium in your diet.
While lingering pain after a calf cramp isn’t usually a sign of a serious medical condition, it can be a symptom of potentially life-threatening condition called deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms deep in a vein. Symptoms of deep vein thrombosis include leg pain and swelling. You may notice that the skin over the painful area feels warm or looks red or blue. If you suspect that you may have a deep vein thrombosis, seek emergency medical care. Blood clots in the leg are particularly dangerous because they can be fatal if they travel through your bloodstream to your lungs.