Night ankle cramps are a relatively common nuisance that can have a variety of different causes. While some cases occur due to a condition called night leg cramps, others are caused by repetitive strain and exertion on your calf and shin muscles throughout the day. For best results, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask whether or not these specific exercises will help with your ankle cramps.
Ankle cramps occur when the muscles around your ankle tendons begin to stiffen or contract involuntarily. This happens as a result of a malfunction in the functional integrity of your lower motor neuron and the muscle fibers. In other words, a small injury or disturbance in your nerves or ankle muscles is interfering with the normal message your brain sends to your feet. While most cases of night leg cramping occur in the calf muscles, the muscles in your feet may also experience sudden involuntary contractions. Once your muscles stop twitching or contracting in an involuntary manner, you can gradually begin to stretch the muscles around your ankle.
The New York Road Runners website recommends the ankle circle stretch for loosening your calf muscles, shin muscles and ankle tendons. Begin by standing straight against a wall or other stable surface and lifting your cramped ankle a few inches off the ground. Slowly rotate your ankle so that your toes draw a large clockwise circle in the air. Continue rotating until you’ve completed at least 10 circles before reversing the motion and repeating the circles in a counterclockwise direction.
Toe Points and Toe Writing
Toe points are slightly more complicated than ankle circles and offer a deeper stretch to your ankle tendons. Begin once more by supporting your weight against a wall and lifting your cramped ankle in the air with the toes pointing downward. Keep your arms, legs and upper body steady as your force your toes downward as far as you possibly can. Slowly lift your toes so that your foot moves upward toward your shin as far as possible and repeat 10 times as needed. Once your ankle feels comfortable, you can try the toe-writing exercise by writing the letters of the alphabet in the air with the toes of your foot. For maximum stretching, try to keep the rest of your body still as you rotate the ankle joint.
Child’s pose, or Balasana, is a gentle ankle and leg stretch that can be done on a floor or yoga mat. "Yoga Journal" recommends beginning this pose by kneeling on the floor with your toes together and your knees separated as wide as your hips. Sit down on your heels and slowly lay your torso forward and down between your thighs. Lay your hands on the floor, palms up, along your torso as you slowly relax your shoulders toward the floor. Broaden your sacrum as you exhale to allow your hip points to nestle down into your inner thighs. Breathe deeply for 30 to 60 seconds as needed.