A calf cramp is an involuntary painful spasm or tightening of the muscles in the calf, the posterior lower leg between the knee and ankle. Strenuous exercise, excessive inactivity or an imbalance of such things as sodium and electrolytes can cause cramps. Calf cramps are usually temporary but can cause severe, debilitating pain. Extreme or chronic cramps in the calf can lead to damage in the muscle through a tearing of the muscle fibres or compression of nerve endings leading to problems with overall mobility.
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Stop activity once the pain begins. Stretch calf.
To stretch calf, alternate movement of ankle so the toes point downward then upward.
For advanced stretch, perform runner's stretch. Position body at arm's length from wall. Place hands on wall and place unaffected leg in a slightly bent position in front of the affected leg. Keeping the heel of the affected leg on the ground, slowly lean into wall until you feel a stretch in the calf.
Apply moderate thumb pressure into the calf muscle belly, or the thickest part of the calf, for severe calf cramps. Once tension or spasm releases, increase thumb pressure. Continue until cramp dissipates.
Follow thumb pressure with kneading massage or palm pressure from the ankle up across the muscle to the back of the knee.
Apply ice to area to decrease inflammation or swelling.
Take a hot shower to loosen muscle spasm if tightness is persists.
Tips and warnings
- Drink enough water every day to decrease the incidence of calf cramps. Increase water intake with strenuous exercise.
- Perform daily stretching routine, especially the runner's stretch described in step 1, to decrease the chances of getting a calf cramp.
- Since severe or chronic calf cramps can cause muscle damage consult your physician if pain persists to rule out any medical conditions or problems, including health issues that may cause calf cramping or are caused by the calf cramp.
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