Calf muscle cramps at night: causes, treatment, prevention

Leg cramps are a common problem. Almost everyone at least once in his life has come across the fact that his calves are cramping at night. If it happened a couple of times, then you shouldn’t worry too much. But frequent muscle spasms are a wake-up call. This is how the body signals health problems.

What is a gastrocnemius spasm

A cramp is an involuntary contraction of a muscle. It is usually accompanied by a tingling sensation, severe pain. Typically, the spasm lasts from a few seconds to several minutes. In severe illnesses, it can be quite long.

Seizures are divided into two main types – idiopathic and secondary. The former are usually triggered by external factors – heavy load, excess weight. Most often, young people suffer from idiopathic disorders. Secondary – are the result of any disease, can occur at any age. 

Calf cramps are some of the most painful. They arise both day and night. Elderly people often suffer from convulsions. Less commonly, adolescents and middle-aged people suffer from them. Pregnant women quite often complain about the occurrence of this symptom.

The main causes of calf muscle cramps during sleep are:

  • overwork of the muscles;
  • sedentary lifestyle, inactivity;
  • nerve tension;
  • lack of fluid in the body;
  • long exhausting workouts, sports;
  • lack of nutrients;
  • disease.

Cramping in some cases occurs when people stretch after sleep. This is because the relaxed muscles tense up quite sharply, which causes a cramp. But it usually quickly passes quickly, this is not a reason to seriously fear for your health.

Diseases that can cause cramps at night

If your legs are often cramped and it bothers you almost every night, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Recurrent spasms can be caused by the following conditions:

  • epilepsy;
  • spasmophilia;
  • abscesses;
  • malignant brain tumors;
  • eclampsia;
  • implicit injuries;
  • inflammation and infection;
  • diabetes;
  • varicose veins;
  • tetanus;
  • neurological diseases.

This list is far from complete. Only a doctor will give you the correct accurate diagnosis. The therapist will study the medical record and tell you which doctor of narrow specialization you need to consult. Most likely, he will prescribe the following studies: blood tests (clinical, sugar, biochemical), general urine analysis, ultrasound of the veins. Examinations by an endocrinologist, phlebologist, neurosurgeon, neurologist will be useful.  

Other causes of cramping

Seizures may not be related to disease. There are also external factors that provoke them:  

  • Hypothermia. Feet may be cramped when swimming in cool water. After a long walk in cold weather at night, cramps in the calves may be troubling. Sudden changes in temperature also cause muscle cramps.
  • Physical exercise. If you do not play sports for a long time, and then start training, then seizures are a predictable result. Legs can be reduced during sports, and later – for example, at night.
  • Overweight. It is difficult for the body to cope with the loads if its owner suffers from extra pounds. Obesity leads to many health problems, and seizures are one of them.
  • Wearing uncomfortable shoes. Women who prefer to wear high-heeled shoes suffer from leg cramps. The feet are deformed due to an unnatural position, and a change in the center of gravity leads to overexertion. Hence leg pain and uncontrolled muscle contraction.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Sedentary work leads to painful cramps. This also applies to work, where a person is forced to stand for many hours.
  • Taking some diuretics. Potassium can also be excreted in the urine. Hormonal contraceptives in some cases also provoke seizures.

Cramps in the calf muscles during sleep during pregnancy

Pregnancy leads to disruptions in the body. Including because of this, painful cramps occur at night. They usually lead to:

  • Vitamin deficiency. Women expecting a baby may lack magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B6. Frequent urination also leads to this – useful substances are excreted in the urine. 
  • Varicose veins. During pregnancy, the load on the body increases, and blood circulation failures occur . Because of this, the necessary substances cannot penetrate the muscles.  
  • Decrease in blood glucose levels. To maintain the level, expecting women should eat healthily and break up their meals into smaller portions. 
  • Syndrome of the inferior vena cava. Due to the enlargement of the uterus, the vein is squeezed, and the outflow of blood becomes worse. This leads to cramps in the calves.
  • Gestosis. This is a disease that appears late in pregnancy and threatens the life of both mother and child. Among his symptoms are edema, high blood pressure, excretion of protein in the urine, frequent convulsions.
  • Eclampsia. A disease, the main manifestation of which is an increase in blood pressure. A characteristic sign of the disease is severe spasms, which can lead to loss of consciousness.

Pregnant women should not miss scheduled check-ups. The doctor can detect a dangerous pathology in the early stages, and thanks to prompt help, it will be possible to preserve the health of the mother and child.

 Cramps in the calves of the legs at night in the elderly

Elderly people most often suffer from the manifestation of this symptomatology. Sometimes spasms in the elderly are not too painful and resemble spontaneous twitching. But cramps often cause severe pain. This lasts from a few seconds to 3-5 (in severe cases, tens) minutes.  

  • Elderly people are most often prone to spasms at night – due to the fact that the muscles are relaxed, a sharp, powerful contraction occurs.
  • Another reason is fatigue, overwork associated with the load on a certain muscle group.
  • And also spasms occur due to metabolic disorders of calcium, potassium and sodium, congestion in the veins.
  • The elderly have calf cramping at night for natural reasons. The older the person, the shorter the tendons. Because of this, they can contract involuntarily.

About 30% of elderly people at the doctor’s office complain of twitching in the calf muscles and painful spasms. For prevention, you need to balance your diet, not overwork and go for a massage. Treatment after examination is prescribed by a doctor. You should not try to diagnose yourself and self-medicate.

What to do at the time of an attack: first aid tips

From night cramps, causing acute pain, a person most often wakes up. There are several exercises that can help you get rid of cramps in a short amount of time.

  • Pinch your calf hard. Repeat several times if the first fails. So you can get rid of the painful sensation that appeared due to spasms. A similar method is to prick the leg with something sharp (a needle or pin). But for night cramps, it is not suitable – very few people, asleep, can quickly find a sterile needle and do everything neatly.
  • Stretch. The cramp will disappear if you grasp the feet with your hands and pull them towards you. You can feel how the muscles relaxed and tensed. The spasms go away rather quickly after that.
  • Get a massage. One of the best options. Ideally, you could ask someone to massage the muscle, but it’s easy to do it yourself.
  • Stand with bare feet on the floor. You just need to stand on the floor for a while. If the spasm is not very strong, then try rolling from heel to toe. The muscles will relax and the pain will soon subside.
  • Use a warming ointment.

Treatment of seizures

You should not prescribe the full course of treatment yourself – you should definitely consult with your doctor. But if you know for sure that cramps are caused by a lack of magnesium, potassium and calcium, you can buy inexpensive, effective drugs. Panangin and Asparkam have proven themselves. Both medicines contain magnesium and potassium aspartate. It is a good prevention of night cramps. The drugs are not contraindicated for the elderly and are well absorbed by the body.

Calcium and vitamin D are found in many complex vitamins. The popular drug “Calcium D3” from “Nycomed”. To compensate for the lack of magnesium, they recommend Magne-B6, Magnelis B6, Magnerot, Magvit.

The drug “Quinine” is effective in the treatment of seizures. However, when taking it, you should be careful and strictly observe the dosage in order to avoid unpleasant side effects. The medicine can only be prescribed by a doctor! If you experience pain, nausea, dizziness, you should immediately stop taking it and consult a doctor. 

Another treatment option is the use of ointments. Depending on the cause of the muscle spasms, you need to choose the right one. If night cramps are disturbing due to varicose veins, Heparin ointment will do.

Doctors advise warming agents such as Troxevasin, Troxerutin, Diosmin. These ointments are recommended to be used twice a day, gently rubbing into the skin with light massaging movements. The use of drugs improves blood circulation, removes edema and helps to cope with night cramps.

Home treatment

Some people prefer home treatment to the doctor. Folk remedies are not a panacea for all diseases. It is recommended to undergo a comprehensive examination . But some methods are effective, we will describe them below.  

  • Helps against discomfort in caviar lemon juice, which is recommended to rub into problem areas and not wipe dry.
  • You can try rubbing your skin with unrefined vegetable oil, which had crushed bay leaves for two weeks before. From the prerequisites – the infusion is stored in a dry, dark place, and the bay leaf is pre-ground into powder.
  • A decoction of birch buds is effective. They need to be brewed in a glass of boiling water and drunk for two days.
  • Linden color can be used. You will need 50 grams of linden flowers (crushed). They are poured with boiling water and insisted for 20 minutes. The broth must be filtered and taken in a quarter of a glass three times a day.
  • Spasms go away thanks to the infusion of adonis. The crushed plant is poured with boiling water and insisted, as in the previous recipe. Take in the same way as the infusion of linden blossom.
  • Decoctions from various herbs and plants are effective: walnut, lily of the valley, heather, barberry, hawthorn, blackberry, hops, thyme, chamomile, oregano and black elderberry.
  • An infusion of cinquefoil, which must be taken three times a day, soothes spasms.
  • To relax muscles and get rid of cramps, you can make a decoction of fennel, anise, caraway seeds and mint leaves, which are poured with boiling water. The resulting mixture should be infused. It is carefully filtered and drunk all day in small sips.
  • The usual chamomile decoction also helps. Dried flowers can be bought at any pharmacy and are inexpensive. Chamomile needs to be insisted, pour boiling water, drain. Then take the broth in a third of the glass for a week, preferably after meals three times a day.
  • Honey is an anticonvulsant product. It is taken 30 grams before meals three times a day. Within a week, spasms will become much less disturbing. But at the first sign of honey allergy, you should stop using it. 
  • A mixture of celandine juice and petroleum jelly helps a lot. They must be mixed in a 1: 2 ratio. This composition should be rubbed into the calves in the evenings with massaging movements. After two weeks, the cramps will subside. 

Prevention of seizures

To prevent muscle spasm, you should follow these tips:

  1. Review the diet. Food should provide the body with essential vitamins and nutrients. You need to consult a doctor, who, after passing the tests, will find out what micro- and macroelements are missing. You may need to supplement the diet with vitamin complexes.
  2. Choose comfortable shoes. Those most beautiful shoes are only half a size smaller or shoes with a 13-centimeter stiletto heel are not suitable shoes. It may look beautiful, but it is fraught with problems with the feet, calves and even the spine.
  3. Do a foot massage. It helps to improve blood circulation and relieve tension. It is best to massage your feet after work, shortly before bed.
  4. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. If you cannot completely remove alcoholic beverages from the diet, try to drink as little as possible and choose weak ones – cider, wine. Smoking should be deleted from your life: seizures are one of the least consequences of this bad habit. 
  5. Do not exhaust yourself with exercise. Sport is good, but it’s important not to go overboard. Overloading will not benefit the body – on the contrary, it will be depleted.


To prevent cramps and get rid of them permanently, there are exercise complexes. Most of them are simple and do not require any special training. The main thing is to do them regularly.
You can choose the most suitable option from the following:

  • Get on your heels, pull your toes up and try to maintain balance for at least ten seconds. Repeat 7 times.
  • Get up on your toes, lifting your heels off the floor, return to the starting position – 10 times. 
  • Smoothly “roll” from heel to toe – 10 times.
  • Lie on your back and stretch your arms and legs as much as possible. On the feet, the toes should be touching, but the heels should not. After that, pull the arms and legs as much as possible, straining the muscles on a deep breath, and relaxing on the exhale. Repeat 7 times.
  • Stand near the wall at a distance of about a meter, stretch out your arms and rest against it. You should feel how the calf muscles stretch. Keep the heels firmly pressed to the floor. Maintain this position for 15 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat 4-5 times with small intervals.
  • Walk on tiptoe for a few minutes a day.

Simple tips can help prevent painful cramps. If they have already arisen and bother you often, do not hesitate and consult a doctor.

Leave a Reply