Calf muscles are commonly affected by muscle cramps and blood clots. Muscle cramps and blood clots are two different conditions. Muscle cramps are the sudden involuntary contraction of the muscles that appear mostly at night after strenuous physical activity. It causes intense pain with tightened muscles. Its pain comes suddenly and goes in a short span of time in a few seconds to minutes. Blood clots develop gradually in veins that carry blood from calf muscles. The pain caused by a blood clot is mild to moderate that remains for days and weeks.

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Are Leg Cramps A Sign Of Blood Clots?

Are Leg Cramps A Sign Of Blood Clots?

Leg cramps and blood clots are not the same things. Both affect calf muscles but they have a difference in their symptoms, causes, risk factors, treatment, and prognosis. Both of them cause pain in the lower leg. (1)

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Leg cramps appear suddenly in the calf muscles usually in the night. It lasts in short time in a few seconds or few minutes. It leads to the hardening of the muscle with intense pain that can awake you in the night. The pain can be mild to moderate soreness of the muscle that ends quickly. (2)

Leg cramps are initiated by poor circulation of blood to the muscles. It is caused by strenuous exercises, lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet, dehydration, cold weather, metabolic disorders, pregnancy, certain medicines like diuretics, steroids, birth control pills, etc. It occurs in people who are in the age of 20-40 years. It does not impose any serious impact on the general health of the affected person.

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Leg cramps can be managed with home remedies. It can be treated with gentle massage, gentle stretching, heat therapies, cold therapies or combination of heat or cold therapies.

Leg cramps are not always a sign of blood clots. If leg cramps appear only in one leg frequently, then it may be a sign of a blood clot in the veins of the leg. If it involves both the legs, then it not a sign of blood clot as blood clots rarely develop in both legs at the same time.

Blood clot develops in calf vein of the leg. It occurs gradually in the calf muscles. It may have no symptoms initially. The blood clot in calf vein may render mild to moderate pain in the calf muscles accompanied by swelling and redness of the involved lower leg. There is also a possibility of fever of low grade. The calf muscle may be tender for a few days to a few weeks. (3)

Leg blood clots are caused by the impaired flow of blood to the muscle, damage to the wall of the blood vessel, or thickening of the blood. These clots are formed at any age. Its chances increase with increasing age. The factors that contribute to the formation of blood clots are pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, stroke, injury to the spinal cord, any surgery in the knee or hips, chemotherapy, prolonged bed rest, smoking, varicose veins, etc.

Blood clots in calf veins are of two types, superficial vein clots or deep vein clots. Superficial vein clots do not harm health. Deep vein clots may impose serious health problems. The fragment of blood clots in the deep calf vein may travel to the lung arteries and may cause pulmonary embolism which is life-threatening problem that may lead to sudden death.

Blood clots should be treated immediately soon after the diagnosis in the emergency medical center to rule out fatal consequences.

Conclusion

Leg cramps can be a sign of blood clots when it appears in one leg. It does not happen always. When leg cramps appear in both the legs, then blood clots cannot be the cause. Leg cramps are sudden involuntary contractions of the calf muscles that settle on their own in few seconds or minutes. Blood clots may cause mild cramps in the calf muscle that remain for a few days and few weeks.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868507/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330021/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5045251/

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 3, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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