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A person is sitting on the side of their bed massaging their calf because they have a cramp.

How to Fix & Prevent Calf Cramps

It’s the middle of the night. Maybe you were moving in your sleep or merely curling up to get a little more comfortable. But suddenly, bending or straightening your leg has become an excruciating affair.

Ah, those middle of the night calf cramps! And they aren’t just limited to the middle of the night…

Calf cramps can strike when you least expect it, such as when you’re in the midst of running or doing an exercise at the gym. It’s not ideal, nor is it fun. So, what gives? And how can you stop these calf muscle cramps from happening?

What is a Calf Cramp?

A calf cramp is a sudden, involuntary, and painful contraction of the calf muscle. This contraction typically lasts somewhere between a few seconds and a few minutes.

What causes a calf cramp? And why is it happening to you?

There are a ton of reasons calf cramps can become a regular occurrence. Here are some of the top ones:

1. Dehydration

Calf cramps are common in regular exercisers and athletes, and one of the keys to avoiding them is staying properly hydrated.

It’s thought that dehydration causes increased sensitization of the nerve endings, which causes contractions to take place. Another argument is that dehydration leads to an inadequate amount of nutrients and fuel needed for the body to recover and heal properly.

This may also lead to issues, such as spontaneous and sudden calf cramps.

2. Mineral Deficiencies

When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and it’s crucial to replace these.

Electrolytes are necessary for proper muscle contraction. If there are imbalances involving calcium, potassium, sodium, or magnesium, calf cramps or other muscle cramps may occur.

Sometimes, these imbalances can occur during pregnancy, which is why many pregnant women may experience calf cramps.

Learn more about what to put into your body with: Supplements 101: Do You Need Them?

3. Overuse

It’s fairly easy to overuse your calf muscles, especially when running!

The calf muscles serve as your brake and gas pedal. If you’re performing a ton of sprints or long-distance runs, this can inevitably lead to overuse of the calves. The muscle has become overexcited, which may cause sudden cramping.

Sitting or standing for long durations may also result in random calf cramps. When doing sitting or standing, your muscles can quickly become fatigued.

4. Certain Medical Conditions

Some conditions that may cause calf cramps include peripheral artery disease, osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. Also, some types of medications, specifically those that deal with blood pressure issues, osteoporosis, or asthma, may lead to an increased frequency of calf cramps.

How to Fix & Prevent Calf Cramps

When a calf cramp is actively happening, you can’t exactly put a stop to it suddenly. However, you can take proactive actions in your daily life to help improve your situation and to help say goodbye to calf cramps for good.

1. Stretch it Out

Daily calf stretches can help relieve tightness and prevent cramps:

  • Stand facing a wall and step one foot back.
  • Intend your back heel toward the ground while leaning forward and bending your front knee. You should feel a deep stretch through the back calf.
  • Hold here for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.

Aim to do this stretch 2-3 times per day.

2. Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

If you have trouble getting enough water down throughout your day, consider bringing a water bottle with you wherever you go. Aim to consume the whole bottle of water before the day is through.

Most men need about 3.7 liters per day, and most women need about 2.7 liters per day.

3. Don’t Forget About Those Electrolytes

As previously mentioned, electrolyte imbalances can lead to painful muscle cramps, such as those in the calves.

Getting rid of calf muscle cramps involves ensuring you’re consuming enough electrolytes. For this one, you’ll want to examine what you’re eating or drinking.

Are you getting enough magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium?

4. Don’t Spend too Long Sitting or Standing

If you work at a desk all day, aim to get up every hour or so. This gives your muscles and body a much-needed break from sitting in the same position all day.

If you stand all day for work? It’s the opposite! Find time to put your feet up and relax.

These small changes can help ensure you don’t tighten any one muscle for too long or fatigue certain muscles, which may lead to cramps.

Check this article out next: 20 Stretches to Combat the Negative Effects of Sitting

5. When Exercising, Don’t Overdo It

The dreaded “too much too soon” happens all too often!

When exercising - whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or a beginner - go slow. Gradually increase your time and intensity. This not only prevents cramps from occurring down the road but will also keep you safe from injuries and prolonged pain.

Fix Your Calf Cramps Starting Today

Calf cramps are annoying and painful.

Let’s be real. They aren’t something that needs to be a part of your life. They don’t add positivity to it or really anything at all besides sudden pain. With a few small and minor changes, you don’t have to have calf cramps wake you up at night.

In fact, start right now. Do that stretch. Drink some water. Find some key foods that you can obtain electrolytes from.

Start doing your body, right! And then, say goodbye to calf cramps for good.

Related article: 7 Essential Exercises for Stubborn Wrist Pain

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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