Health
Fact Checked

What is a Calf Cramp?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

One of the more severe types of leg cramps, a calf cramp is a painful episode in which the muscles of the calf contract uncontrollably. Cramps of this type are not unusual among athletes and other people who are physically active. People working in professions that require a great deal of standing and walking are also at higher risk for developing cramps of this type. Fortunately, calf cramps are easily treated.

There are several causes that can lead to the development of a calf cramp. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for the cramps to appear. People who are physically active may deplete the body’s resources more quickly, especially in hot weather. Often, simply replacing the lost fluid by drinking water will help to ease the frequency and severity of the cramps.

Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.
Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.

Another common cause for a calf cramp is low levels of potassium and sodium. During exercise and other forms of strenuous physical exertion, sodium can be depleted from the body during the process of perspiration. Potassium levels can get low simply because of a poor diet. Many sports drinks provide a quick supply of both nutrients, and can help to ease muscle cramps in the legs and elsewhere.

The calf cramp causes the muscles of the lower leg to contract uncontrollably.
The calf cramp causes the muscles of the lower leg to contract uncontrollably.

It is also possible to develop a calf cramp because of low carbohydrate consumption. A certain amount of carbohydrates are needed each day in order to keep the muscle systems in the body functioning properly. When there are not enough carbohydrates present to fuel the muscles adequately, involuntary contractions are likely to appear. Making sure to take in enough complex carbohydrates while avoiding a lot of simple carbohydrates will help to prevent cramps from taking place, and also make it easier to manage blood glucose levels.

A calf cramp is one of the more severe types of leg cramps.
A calf cramp is one of the more severe types of leg cramps.

Treating a calf cramp involves identifying the origin of the cramps and taking steps to correct the situation by replacing nutrients or making changes in the diet. For immediate relief from the cramps, massage can often help to relax stiff muscles and cause the cramping to subside. Some stretching exercises help to stop the cramping, although this approach should be discussed with a physical therapist in order to identify the right type of stretching to alleviate the painful contractions.

Massaging may help ease a calf muscle cramp.
Massaging may help ease a calf muscle cramp.

In some cases, the calf cramp may be a sign of an ongoing issue with one or muscle groups in the area, such as a muscle strain. When various remedies seem to be ineffectual, it is a good idea to see a doctor. The right tests can determine if there is some physical situation that is exacerbating the cramps, such as a damaged muscle. Once the strained or damage muscle is successfully treated, the cramping should disappear.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including , and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments

anon72201

I'm 56 and have been working out most of my life. Within the last two years on separate occasions I have pulled/torn both my hamstrings and more recently have experienced a pulled calf muscle in both legs.

I warm up plenty and each time I became injured the movement was well within my range so I am thinking that there may be some dietary reasons I am experiencing this.

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.
      By: spaxiax
      Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.
    • The calf cramp causes the muscles of the lower leg to contract uncontrollably.
      By: kanzefar
      The calf cramp causes the muscles of the lower leg to contract uncontrollably.
    • A calf cramp is one of the more severe types of leg cramps.
      By: Maridav
      A calf cramp is one of the more severe types of leg cramps.
    • Massaging may help ease a calf muscle cramp.
      By: Tyler Olson
      Massaging may help ease a calf muscle cramp.