What causes calf cramps?

Written by nicole long | 13/05/2017
What causes calf cramps?
Calf Cramp (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images)

Calf cramps are among the most painful types of cramps. They can come on suddenly and without warning. Considered a skeletal muscle that can be voluntarily controlled, the calf is among the most common muscles to cramp. A cramp is described as a sudden and involuntary contraction affecting one or more muscles. There are many different causes of calf cramps, but the good news is there are steps you can take to help prevent them from occurring, as well as recommended treatments if a cramp does occur.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes calf cramps?
Symptoms and Causes (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The symptoms of calf cramps are sudden pain, tension and the inability to put full pressure on your leg. You also may notice that the muscle becomes hardened and feels like a ball. There are several causes of calf cramps. Among them are exposure to significant temperature change, dehydration, low blood salt, low blood calcium and low potassium. Certain diseases such as kidney and thyroid disease can bring on cramping as well.

Nocturnal Cramps

What causes calf cramps?
Nocturnal Cramps (Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Involuntary muscle cramps that occur at night are referred to as nocturnal cramps. These occur most commonly in the calves and soles of the feet. These types of cramps are normal in the late stage of pregnancy.


What causes calf cramps?
Treatment (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Sometimes the best thing you can do for a cramp is to stretch. For a calf cramp, stand up, and while bending from the waist, touch your toes. This will lengthen the leg muscles and help relieve the cramp. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water, apply heat or cold to the area, and gently massage the cramp.

Risk Factors

What causes calf cramps?
Risk Factors (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images)

Anyone can develop a calf cramp; however, infants, the elderly, overweight people and athletes are at the greatest risk.


What causes calf cramps?
Prevention (Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

There are steps you can take to help prevent calf cramps. Drink plenty of water, eat potassium rich foods such as bananas, and stretch properly. Warming up before working out or participating in sporting events also is important. Calf cramps are seldom serious, although if you experience frequent muscle cramps, see a doctor.

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