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Leg cramps, also known as night leg cramps, especially calf-muscle cramps, are fairly common. Some people experience cramps in the muscles of their feet, as well as their thigh muscles. In most cases these types of cramps occur while the individual is sleeping or resting.
A cramp pain typically lasts a few minutes. In some cases it lasts just seconds; however, in some cases it lasts up to 10 minutes. The severity of the pain varies. The muscle may remain tender for up to 24 hours after a leg cramp. Leg cramps usually occur when you are resting – most commonly at night when in bed. (They are often called night cramps.) They may wake you. It can become a distressing condition if your sleep is regularly disturbed.
Leg cramps can occur for no apparent reason, known as idiopathic leg cramps, or as a symptom or complication of a health condition, known as secondary leg cramps.
Causes of secondary leg cramps can include:
During a cramp, your muscles suddenly contract (shorten), causing pain in your leg. This is known as a spasm, and you cannot control the affected muscle.
The cramp can last from a few seconds to 10 minutes. When the spasm passes, you will be able to control the affected muscle again.
If you often get leg cramps, regularly stretching the muscles in your lower legs may help prevent the cramps or reduce their frequency.
You might find it useful to stretch your calves before you go to bed each night (see stretching advice above or try this post-exercise calf stretch).
The following night-time advice may also help:
These tips might help ease the pain of leg cramps during pregnancy:
Treatment If there is no underlying cause the leg cramps will probably get better without treatment.
Stretching exercises – if the cramp is in the calf muscle:
Some people find that these stretching exercises not only help them get over a leg cramp episode, but also that help reduce how often they occur. Typically, a patient would do these exercises two or three times a day.