What Causes Calf Cramps & How to Get Rid of it?
Have you met with calf cramps anytime? Usually calf muscle cramps is experienced while running, biking, swimming or even during sleeping at night sometimes. They may be painful enough to wake you up in the night at times. So, if you have ever been encountered with something like painful spasms occurring in the calf muscles then it is obvious you must be looking for the underlying causes and also about the ways to get rid of these calf cramps. So, here is the article which would prove you beneficial in providing you some information on the causes of calf cramps and also in letting you know how to get rid of it.
Overview on Calf Cramps:
Actually a muscle cramp is a painful contraction or tightening of any muscle in the body that grows all of a sudden and lasts from few seconds to several minutes. There occur cramps or painful spasms of muscle when a muscle is fatigue or overused, or when the body is dehydrated. Usually these muscle cramps occur in the legs. When there is a cramp in the calf muscles in legs it is known to be calf cramps. There are various conditions which may cause calf cramps which must be paid attention so as to prevent or get rid of the calf muscle cramps.
Usually one meets with calf cramps while running, while biking, while swimming or while stretching. There are also calf cramps experienced in people while sleeping during night and known as nocturnal calf cramps. Let us know about these calf cramps in brief.
What Causes Calf Cramps?
Various Activities That Can Cause Calf Cramps:
- Calf Cramps Caused While Running: Runners experience calf cramps while running all of a sudden. As mentioned above, calf muscle cramps occurs usually when the muscles are overused.
- Calf Cramps Caused While Swimming: Calf cramps can also be experienced suddenly while swimming. Usually such cramps are felt in a swimmer after a freestyle kick or after a turn when a short and sharp muscle spasm occurs at the sole in the foot that makes it difficult to continue swimming. However, a bit of stretching can get relaxation here.
- Calf Cramps Caused While Sleeping/Noctural Calf Cramps: There are night-time calf muscle cramps which occur suddenly during night or while sleeping and when there occur sudden spasms or tightening of the calf muscles. They mostly occur when you have just fallen asleep or when you are waking up.
Conditions That Can Cause Calf Cramps:
Now, let us look at some of the causes for calf cramps.
- Calf cramps are caused in women during pregnancy, especially during the late months of pregnancy. This is due to loss or reduction of certain minerals like calcium and magnesium.
- Overuse of calf muscles or injury to the muscles while exercising can cause calf cramps.
- Exposure to cold temperature, mainly exposure to cold water can cause calf cramps.
- Standing on a surface for long time or sitting at a place for a long time can cause calf muscle cramps. Even if legs are put in awkward positions while sleeping, one can experience calf cramps.
- Lack of enough calcium, magnesium, potassium etc in blood can cause calf cramps.
- Dehydration can also lead to calf cramps.
- Certain medications like birth control pills, antipsychotics, statins, steroids etc can also cause cramps in the calf muscles
- There are also some medical conditions which may cause calf cramps like kidney disease, thyroid disease, anaemia, diabetes, Cirrhosis, Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease etc.
- Structural disorders like Spinal stenosis, peripheral arterial disease etc can cause cramps in the calf.
- Calf cramps are also caused due to aging.
How to Get Rid of Calf Cramps & Treatment for Cramps in Calf
Let us take a look on the various ways to get rid of calf cramps, in this section.
Hydration and Electrolyte Replacements in Body Helps Get Rid of Calf Cramps:
The first thing to note is drinking plenty of water and keeping body hydrated. As it is known that muscle fatigue and calf muscle cramps can be caused by dehydration or lack of water in the body; it is essential to have enough water consumption before any activity, or workout and also after doing it.
Apart from plain water, you must take some essential beverages or the sports drinks which help in replenishing the lost electrolytes while workouts. The sweat released during physical activity or workouts takes away potential electrolytes from the body like sodium, potassium, magnesium etc. These electrolytes play a beneficial role in proper muscle contraction. That is the reason why it is essential to take drink that can replace the lost electrolytes. Salt tablets may also be helpful when performing long duration running, swimming or workouts.
Medications to Get Rid of Calf Cramps:
- Medications are available that can help provide relief from muscle cramps. You can talk to your doctor for getting appropriate drugs for calf muscle cramps.
- There are over-the-counter pain medicines available like Ibuprofen( Motrin, Advil), Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Naproxen (Aleve) etc which can be taken to relieve the painful muscle spasms. Make sure you read the instructions mentioned in the labels before taking the medicines.
Alternative Methods to Get Rid of Calf Cramps:
- Compression to Get Rid of Calf Cramps: Compression reduces the extraneous movement of the calf muscles while workouts or physical activities, which can reduce the total effect of the calf muscles and thus prevent muscle fatigue or calf muscle cramps. Moreover it also helps in improved blood flow to the muscle. So, using either a compression shock or a compression sleeve while performing workouts, running etc can reduce the risk of calf muscle cramps.
- Heat and Cold Treatments to Get Rid of Calf Cramps: Heat and cold treatments are beneficial in relieving the pain and getting rid of calf muscle cramps. Applying ice on the onset of the cramp can help you have some relief. You can go for the heat treatment if the muscle remains tight even after days of cold treatment. Heat treatment can help relieve the condition by increasing the blood flow to the area.
- Massage Therapy can Help Ease the Calf cramps: Gentle massage over the area with the onset of calf muscle cramp can increase the blood flow to the area and help you get rid of the cramps.
- Stretching For Relieving Calf Cramps: Stretching can get you some good relief from calf muscle cramps. Go for gentle stretching with onset of the cramps and also continue having your stretches in order to prevent them further. We will talk about few stretches to get rid of calf muscle cramps in the later part of the article.
- Arch Support: Go for an arch support for your feet in order to relieve calf cramps. It is known that an unsupported arch can make the calf muscle work at a harder rate than they actually should.
Exercises/Stretches to Get Rid of Calf Cramps:
Below we will talk about some exercises and stretches which can help you get rid of calf cramps.
- Gastrocnemius Stretch to get rid of calf cramps: In order to do this stretch; stand with one leg in front of the other leg and lean against a wall. Next, bend your leg that is in the front and keep the back leg straight with your heel on the floor until you feel the stretch on your muscles in the back of the lower leg between your knee and heel. Hold this stretch for 2 minutes before you perform the next stretch for calf cramps.
- Soleus Stretch: This is one more stretch that can help you get rid of calf cramps. This can be done after 20 seconds of the Gastrocnmius stretch. For doing this, you need to stand with one leg in front of the other and lean against a wall; as done in the previous stretch. Next, you need to bend both your knees and shift your weight to the leg placed on the back; making sure that your heel of the back leg is kept right on the floor. A stretch in the back of the lower leg can be felt by doing this. Hold this stretch for 2 minutes. Take 10-20 seconds of break and go for the next stretch mentioned below.
- Plantar Fascia Stretch: One more effective stretch for calf cramps in Plantar fascia stretch. For performing this stretch, stand with one leg in front of the other leg with the toes of your front foot on a raised platform like a step or a wall. Next, bend both your knees until a stretch is felt in the sole of your front foot. Hold this stretch for 2 minutes and then after 20 seconds of interval, go for the next stretch.
Few Self Care Tips to Get Rid of Calf Cramps:
"There is always a way to get rid of the condition you are suffering from. All you need is your own interest in taking care of yourself." Here we will talk about some self care tips to get rid of calf cramps.
- It is essential for you to drink plenty of water and other fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Massaging the cramped calf muscles with ice can be beneficial in relieving calf cramps.
- Taking warm water bath can help relieve calf cramps
- One more self care tip to relieve calf cramps is flexing your foot towards head.
- Walking can also relieve calf cramps.
Ways to Prevent Getting Calf Cramps:
Let us take a look on some preventive steps which must be followed before performing certain activities leading to calf cramps.
- Go for some stretches before sleeping. This can prevent night time calf cramps.
- It is essential for you to change the type or brand of your running shoe you wear while running if it exerts more stress on your foot or if it doesn't fit properly
- It is essential to note that one must run during times of lower heat and humidity. Running in hotter temperature can quickly dehydrate you and thus may lead to calf cramps.
- Go for stretching your muscles correctly before running or swimming.
- Be sure you are taking enough of water and other fluids so as to avoid dehydration that may lead to calf muscle cramps.
- Take essential diet and maintain a healthy eating habit. Below we have mentioned in brief about the essential diet and eating habit to prevent calf cramps.
Essential Diet and Eating Habits to Prevent Calf Cramps:
Here, we will take a look on some essential diets for getting rid of calf muscle cramps.
- Take foods rich in minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium: Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy body. You must take banana containing enough potassium, magnesium rich foods like lentils, nuts etc.
- Eat plenty of carbohydrates the night before your run: If you are going for long distance running, then be sure that you have consumed enough carbohydrates the night before your run which can help you avoid cramps of calf muscles while running.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages: Do not take coffee or any caffeinated beverage before or after workouts which will dehydrate your muscles and lead to muscle cramps.
- Avoid consuming high protein or fat rich food: Food rich in high protein or fat can be problematic. So make sure you are not taking such foods within 4-5 hours before your run or workout.
So, now that we are at the end of our topic you must have a bit of idea on what causes calf cramps and about the ways to get rid of the calf cramps. Hope this would have benefited you to some extent.
It is essential to note that any ill health condition requires an expert treatment. So, go for a doctor's consultation before taking any medicine or before going for any other treatments for calf cramps.