Causes of Leg Cramps While Swimming & Ways to Deal With it?

A severe muscle cramp can bring even the toughest individuals to their knees. Cramping is a development of involuntary and sudden contraction of muscles. Generally muscle cramps occur when one gets dehydrated or overexerts the muscle. These in turn happens when individuals engage in rigorous athletic activities like running, swimming etc. According to studies, cramping while swimming is quite a common phenomenon. Have you ever suffered with a leg cramp in the pool? Do you want to know more about the causes of leg cramps while swimming & ways to deal with it? Read the following article for more on cramping while swimming.

Causes of Leg Cramps While Swimming

What Causes Leg Cramps While Swimming?

Like most other athletic activities, sports and exercises, cramping while swimming is also caused by either loss of electrolytes, unnecessary tension or conditioning. The occurrence of leg cramps is attributed to an improper action of plantar flexing in the foot. Plantar flexing happens when all the muscles of the leg create a rigid line from the calf right up to the toes. It is one of the most suitable positions for the foot while swimming as it lets the foot attain maximum water contraction. This in turn helps to enhance the swimming speed; however, holding this position for long can cause cramping during swimming. Unnecessary tension is similar to plantar flexing. It is basically an involuntary action that is unnatural. The body will attempt to correct this unnatural position, causing a leg cramp.

What Causes Leg Cramps While Swimming?

Ways to Deal With Leg Cramps While Swimming

Leg cramps are experienced from time to time even by expert swimmers. However, a gradual increase in intense swimming coupled with a healthy lifestyle can help in curtailing the frequency of these leg cramps. Whenever cramping strikes, one should immediately discontinue the activity which triggered the leg cramp. They should then apply hot compression on the affected area followed by the application of an ice pack. If the muscle cramp/pain still persists, then these individuals are advised to take anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Some simple ways in which leg cramping can be managed are:

Stay Optimally Hydrated & Nourished to Prevent & Manage Leg Cramps While Swimming

Dehydration makes it very difficult for the body to transfer essential nutrients to the organs and muscles and thus causes rapid cramping in the legs. Further, if the individual is malnourished or hungry, they may suffer from pain too. Since swimmers are generally in water, they hardly notice when they perspire or feel thirsty. However, they still need to consume plenty of water before and after their swimming workout. Energy bars and electrolyte drinks can prove to be extremely helpful in replacing the nutrients that are exhausted through swimming.

Warm-Up & Stretch to Prevent & Manage Leg Cramps While Swimming

People who rush into a workout without doing proper warm ups may experience severe leg cramps. Even a small leisurely walk or a bit of stretching before a workout can aid in reducing the risk of leg cramps. However, one should ensure that they don’t overstretch till the point of pain. Swimmers should also complete a small stretching routine following a swim.

Keep Cold & Fatigue at Bay to Prevent & Manage Leg Cramps While Swimming

Muscles can get cramped up due to exhaustion and thus it is advisable for swimmers to avoid overexerting themselves, especially those people who have just started swimming. They should stick to the normal schedule of working out 3 to 5 times a week focusing primarily on building endurance. This will help them to exercise longer and harder. Swimming in cold water tires and wears off some swimmers more quickly and as a result cause leg cramps. Swimming in a heated pool is advisable for these individuals.

Massage the Inflamed Tissue to Prevent & Manage Leg Cramps While Swimming

A new and different workout regime can end up making the muscles ache and can even lead to minor injuries. If one experiences pain post swimming, they should gently massage the affected region, focusing on loosening the muscle knots. These individuals are advised to not return to swimming until the pain alleviates. They should rather continue with their massaging schedule and repeat it twice or thrice daily to prevent leg cramps when swimming. This would help to enhance the blood flow in the affected area and promote healing of the eg cramps.


Getting a muscle cramped while swimming can be a nightmarish experience for a swimmer. It leaves them clutching their leg and whining in pain after a dip in the pool. The occurrence of these challenging leg cramps can be prevented and managed by following the above mentioned simple practices.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 24, 2018

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