Leg cramps are painful, usually acute and not long lasting pain in the muscle area of ​​the calves.
You can calmly and suddenly occur but also after and during a great effort.
In most cases there is a sudden onset of pain in the calf muscles.
This pain has a drawing and biting character and can also continue into the upper leg muscles. When you touch the affected muscles quickly a strong hardening.

The striated musculature of the body is composed of so-called actin and myosin, which are interlocked with heads.
The closest you can make a comparison with a zipper.
A muscle movement causes a contraction of the corresponding muscles. Here, the various heads glide past each other and "snap" in a different position after the muscle has moved.
The smaller these distances are, the "finer" the muscle moves.
During a convulsion, however, the heads skip corresponding resting points, it comes to entire routes that are not locked. This is associated with corresponding severe pain.

In addition to the pain and the hardening of the muscles, it often comes to functional limitations, ie habitual movements in the leg can not be performed for the period in which it comes to a spasm.
Cramps usually last only a few seconds or minutes and loosen up by themselves.
Sometimes it can come to several rapid episodes following seizure, which is extremely disturbing and unpleasant.
An aggravating factor in cramping the muscles is that those suffering from a cramp of the calf try to relax the muscles, but this does not succeed, but rather leads to the opposite, ie there is an increased hardening of the musculature, which in turn leads to increased pain.
Many people pull on the leg, trying to massage and relax the hardened area with their hands. In some cases this succeeds.
More effective, however, is the firm appearance of the foot on the ground.
It is important to get the leg into another movement.
If the affected person stands on the appropriate leg and seesaw on the floor a few times, the spasm usually disappears.
With the disappearance also the calf muscles relax immediately.
Directly afterwards, however, there are milder, often lasting one to two days of drawing pain, which are similar to sore muscles.

frequency distribution

Depending on the underlying cause of convulsions, those affected may experience calf cramps more often or less frequently.
With systemic deficiency symptoms, leg cramps can occur almost every night. At night, this happens because the muscles are at rest.

In untrained athletes who run a marathon, it comes from a certain time almost always to calf cramps, as the lack of training, the adequate oxygen and nutrient supply of the calf muscles is no longer guaranteed.

Men are usually more affected by calf cramps than women, adults more often than children and adolescents.

Leg cramps, which are not based on any obvious cause, occur in 2-5% of the population. Again, men are slightly more affected than women. Children and infants are almost never affected.
Older people also complain less often about leg cramps.
The cause of this age- and gender-specific frequency distribution is unclear.


In most cases, a corresponding cause of calf cramps is not found.

At night calf cramps should be thought of a magnesium deficiency.
It is important that attention is paid to a corresponding amount of drinking and a corresponding balanced mineral water is consumed.
If only tap water is consumed, which is almost always low in minerals, it is more likely to be deficient, sometimes in conjunction with calf cramps.

After a lot of physical exertion it can also come to calf cramps. This is especially true in athletes to cramps that exceed the limit and not pause, quite often after or during marathons.

The muscle is no longer sufficiently supplied with oxygen and nutrients when reaching the load limit and begins the anaerobic energy supply.
The muscle works in an acid environment. In these metabolic situations, the affected athletes almost always experience muscle soreness on the following day.
If the sport activity is not slowed down and even extended in this situation, the risk of a muscle spasm is correspondingly increased. Too low drinking continues to increase the risk.

Some medications can also cause muscle cramps and muscle aches.
To name a few here are so-called cholesterol-lowering drugs. Regular intake leads to an increased risk of muscle cramps.
In the event of a change of the drug or after consultation with the doctor, it should be considered to stop the medication.

Nocturnal leg cramps

If there is a calf cramping at night, different causes can be considered.
If sport has been done the day before, an overload can be the reason for a nocturnal leg cramp.

In the future, care should be taken to ensure a sufficient warm-up period and sufficient water to be drunk. Other reasons for nocturnal leg cramps would be magnesium deficiency, which has adjusted over time and then becomes symptomatic at night.

Furthermore, a very restless sleep may be responsible for a calf cramp. Too cold or too warm rooms in which to sleep can also contribute to the formation of calf cramps.

As a rule, calf cramps last only a few minutes, but can sometimes occur more frequently at shorter intervals. An important measure in the acute situation would be to stretch the affected leg accordingly.
In doing so, one would passively draw the toes to the body with the hand and move the heel away from the body.
In this position should be left a few minutes. The spasm will dissolve relatively quickly. Another option would be to stand on your feet and stomp hard with the affected leg on the ground. The vibrations relax the cramped muscles in the calf area.

Manually you can try to relax the hardened muscles in the area of ​​the calf. Here you can press with your index and middle finger in a circular motion on the hardened muscle to release the tension manually.

A treatment trial with a heat pad can also be tried. If no action is taken, a rarer vascular change in the calf muscles should be ruled out. Some circulatory disorders may also be the cause of nocturnal leg cramps. An ultrasound examination may then become necessary.

Leg cramps in pregnancy

Leg cramps in pregnancy usually have the same causes as non-pregnant people.
Very often, the electrolyte balance is confused, ie that either calcium or magnesium are present in too small an amount.
Often this imbalance comes from under-drinking.

In pregnant women, it is also due to the slowly increasing weight to overload or Fehlbelastung the legs.
Here, too, may be the cause of nightly leg cramps.

Preventive should be paid to a sufficient amount of non-demineralized water (ie, if possible, no tap water).
Massages and warm wraps on the legs can also help prevent nocturnal cramps.
It is important to pay attention to regular exercise.
The circling of the feet, for example in the supine position, can also help prevent calf cramps.
If no action works, a doctor should be consulted.


Sudden onset of pain in the calf muscles

The first symptoms of calf cramping are sudden onset pain in the calf area.
Within a few seconds moderate to severe pain can occur in the calf. Often during the night, those affected are terrified.

Another common symptom is muscular hardening in the calf muscles. It is ultimately responsible for the severe pain in the area.

The third usually not so pronounced symptom is the movement restriction to mention.
In the muscle areas of the calf, which can be very cramped, the usual movements can no longer be carried out normally. In this case, this would be mainly the foot extension and flexion.
To stand on tiptoe would be difficult.

Nonetheless, this is exactly what should be tried to relieve the spasm.
Due to the severe pain, most patients also experience a tormenting restlessness.
Most begin to move quickly and quickly or to massage the calf


The diagnosis of a calf cramp is a gaze diagnosis.
Since cramps usually occur at home and often at night, the later consulted doctor usually can no longer judge whether it really was a convulsion or rather a pulling pain, which is caused by, for example, reduced blood flow to the lower leg.

Although there are neurological measuring instruments that check the muscle function, evidence of nocturnal spasms is difficult.
In case of frequent leg cramps described by patients, however, a diagnosis can be started by the doctor.
This is aimed primarily at a laboratory examination and a detailed health survey and some physical examinations.

In the blood calcium, potassium and sodium as well as magnesium and the creatine kinase value should be determined. If this is increased, this indicates increased muscle cell decay.
A pronounced magnesium deficiency can also lead to muscle cramps.

The questionnaire refers primarily to sports performed, and appropriate training and a corresponding overtraining.

In the physical examination, the patient should be asked to stand on his toes, and the calf muscles should be examined and felt.
A severely hardened muscle tone indicates a recent spasm or recurrent leg cramps.

treatment measures

If a calf cramp occurs either suddenly during the day or at night, it is necessary to lift the condition as quickly as possible and to loosen the leg cramp.
There are several ways to do this. Since the calf muscles are in a completely nonphysiological position during a calf cramp, a normal and habitual muscle movement is usually not possible.
If you succeed in getting the leg into its usual motion, the calf cramp usually resolves.

A successful measure, in case the spasm occurs during the night, is to get up and walk around or kick the affected leg hard.
The vibrations that continue above the affected muscle loosen up the corresponding muscles. Again, it usually comes quickly to an improvement of the symptoms. Even if the affected people stand on tiptoe, the calf muscles usually relax suddenly and the spasm disappears.
In any case, you can supportively while lying or standing massage the hardened muscles. The goal is to loosen up the hardened muscles and bring them back to their normal habitual position.

An often-described simple exercise to quickly relieve calf cramps is to use the toes to the body and the heel away from the body.
This position should be held for a few seconds. Soon the affected person notices the early relaxation of the muscle.

A second exercise is to put the affected leg backwards, similar to a sprinter in the starting position and try to bring the heel of the affected leg to the ground. Also this position should be held for a few seconds before then probably quickly dissolves the spasm.

Can not help these measures can also be tried to put a hot water bottle on the affected leg. Due to the heat, the corresponding muscle is supplied with more blood, the hardening is loosened quickly. The typical muscular hangover symptoms that occur after a leg cramp can also be treated with a hot water bottle or with a pain gel. Various active substances are available here, such as ibuprofen (doc ointment) or Diclo gel (diclofenac). The application can be done several times a day. An improvement is to be expected after 2 days at the latest.


To prevent calf cramps, one must know the exact causes of calf cramps. If the causes are unknown, one should stick to general measures that usually work very well.

  • Avoid overload: Loads should be adjusted to the individual training condition. This applies for a completely untrained person as well as for competitive athletes. Even those who are well trained can exceed the maximum performance limit. In this case, muscle spasms occur in almost all cases, necessitating immediate rest. Before exercising, be sure to warm up your muscles.
    The muscles should also be stretched by slightly elastic movements.
  • Pay attention to hydration: With or without sport, it is very important that a sufficient amount of fluid is supplied to the body. This is the only way to protect the body from dehydration and to prevent calf cramping. Next, it should be noted that no tap water but mineral water is drunk. Tap water has only a very small amount of minerals, which are also immensely important for the body. Normal mineral water with a balanced mineral content is important if you want to prevent calf cramps.
  • It should also be noted that enough magnesium is added to the body. Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common causes of calf muscle cramps.

preventive measures

Sometimes the cause of nocturnal calf cramps is an imbalance of electrolytes. In addition to sodium, these include calcium, potassium and magnesium.
For calf cramps, the magnesium is most likely blamed.
It ensures that the succession of the so-called actin and myosin heads (zipper principle) works without problems. Lack of magnesium can cause problems with nocturnal cramps, especially when the muscles relax.

A magnesium deficiency is usually caused by a one-sided unhealthy diet with few fruits and vegetables. Even if it is drunk too little during the day or if too much tap water is drunk. Tap water has a greatly reduced magnesium content compared to mineral water.

Adults need about 400 mg of magnesium per day. Foods that are considered particularly magnesium-containing are corn, millet, food bran, beans and soybeans.

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