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Leg Cramps

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

A leg cramp is a sudden, painful squeeze in your calf (lower leg) or thigh (upper leg) muscles. The muscle may twitch under the skin or feel hard. Your leg may feel sore long after the muscles relax.


To stretch your leg:

Warm up your muscles before you stretch. Take a short walk or run slowly in place. If you get leg cramps while you sleep, you may also want to stretch before bedtime. The following exercises stretch the calves and thighs to help stop or prevent leg cramps:

  • To stretch your calf and heel:
    • Stand up and place the palms of your hands against a wall.
    • Lean into the wall, with one leg behind the other. Bend the front leg and keep the back leg straight.
    • Press the heel of your back leg into the floor.
    • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
  • To stretch the back of your knee and thigh:
    • Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Do not point your toes.
    • Place the palms of your hands at your sides on the floor. Slide your hands past your hips toward your ankles.
    • Move toward your ankles until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Do not try to touch your head to your knees or round your back.
    • Hold for 30 seconds.

Drink plenty of liquids during exercise:

Water and other liquids help prevent cramps by replacing fluids lost in sweat. Drink more liquids when you are active in hot weather.

To stop a leg cramp if it happens again:

  • Stretch and massage your muscle to stop the cramp.
  • Apply heat or ice packs to the cramp. A heating pad or hot pack may help relieve tight muscles. An ice pack or crushed ice in a bag, wrapped in a towel can soothe tender or sore muscles.

Take your medicine as directed:

Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are taking any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down any questions you have so you remember to ask them in your follow-up visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your leg cramps get worse or happen more often.
  • Your leg feels numb.
  • Your leg cramps do not go away with stretching or massage.
  • You feel dizzy, lightheaded, or confused when you exercise in hot weather. You may have a headache or blurred vision.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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