Cramps in Calf at Night- Causes and Remedies


Calf Pain at Night
In the middle of night when you are sleeping and its not more than an hour or so that you fell asleep, you suddenly feel a severe cramp in your calf or calves. You realize that you are half awake and sometimes moaning in pain! These are the charlie horses cramps or the cramps in calf at night. If you have been in this situation once or for multiple times, you are aware of how painful these nocturnal calf cramps can be! There are many causes of leg calf cramps at night beginning from your lifestyle, the food that you eat which can be deficient in certain minerals to certain diseases as well as medicines that you regularly take for your diseases! Why do you have calf pain at night and what can you do to get rid of these calf pain and cramps? Let's explore!


What are Nocturnal Calf Cramps?


As the term itself says, nocturnal calf cramps are the nighttime leg cramps felt in calves- the back part of the legs situated right below your knees. They are sudden spasms, or tightening of muscles in the calf. In fact, they are more serious condition than spasms because the calf pain at night is a sudden, uncontrolled contraction of a muscle. Calf pain at night often occur just when you are falling asleep or waking up and they can last a few seconds to a few minutes.

What Causes Cramps in calf at Night?


While doctors are still not sure about the exact causes of leg cramps at night, there are many reasons stated by them on the basis of patients who sometimes have fluid imbalance or a vitamin deficiency in their bodies. Some studies, however, link nocturnal calf cramps with increased electrical activity in the affected leg muscles, but doctors still don't know what causes nocturnal leg cramps. In some cases, calf cramps at night may be caused by a fluid imbalance or a vitamin deficiency. Apart from these main speculative causes of calves cramps, there are many other causes cited as responsible for these cramps at night.

Overused and strained calf muscle. You might have tried a new exercise or overdone some of the exercises that strain your calf muscles.

Injury to Achilles Tendonitis tendon. Pain due to some injury to Achilles tendon which joins the calf muscles with the heel might also intensify your calf cramps at night. This type of leg pain often will extend itself to the heels where the Achilles tendon is situated.

Occurance of Varicose Veins. If you keep yourself standing for most of the time in the day, you might develop varicose veins- a condition when your veins in calf get wider and enlarged. This is due to the unusual accumulation of blood in the veins that fail to travel back to heart.

High cholesterol leevels. If you suffer from high cholesterol levels, it might lead to clogging of the arteries due to cholesterol deposition in them. This, in turn, affects the blood supply to the calf leading to pain and cramps. You must therefore know How to Control Cholesterol

Increased blood sugar levels.If you are diabetic, there can be yet another cause for your calf cramps at night- high blood sugar levels that damage the peripheral nerve known as diabetic neuropathy. Use this Checklist for Diabetes  which talks about best diet for insulin dependent persons.

Knee pain and knee joint inflammation.If you suffer from arthritis or knee pain that causes inflammation in the knee joint, it is quite possible for you to have calf pain at night. Read about these Knee Pain ManagementDo's & Don'ts 

Other causes of calf cramps at night may include sleep disorders; dehydration; deficiency of potassium, calcium, and other minerals; excessive body weight; sitting for a long time during the day; keeping your legs in awkward positions when you sleep; consuming certain medicines like diuretics for urine problems, statins, steroids or birth control pills; diseases like thyroid and kidney problems.

Remedies for Nocturnal Calf Cramps


You must first identify as to what causes your calf pains at night! If its is high cholesterol or blood sugar then you must take steps to treat these conditions. However, when you wake up due to cramps in calves at night, to get immediate relief, stretch out your leg or legs and stay in that position for sometime (about 10-15 minutes). You can gently massage your calves with your fingers too. Stretching of legs are a must for people who experience calf pain – either at night or anytime. So, how to do stretches for calf muscles?

Here's how you can do stretching exercise to get relief from your calf cramps at night.
  • Lay down on your back and extend both your legs.
  • Take a rolled up towel and wrap it around the ball of your foot.
  • Keeping your leg straight, pull your toes towards yourself. You will feel the stretch at the back of your legs.
  • Take your foot up and then down keeping your leg straight. Repeat this without stopping. You should not hold the stretch. Keep doing this for about 2 minutes.
  • Repeat the entire process with the other leg.
See this Calf Pain Rehab Video to get idea about how to stretch calf muscles to get relief from calf strain.


You can also do a simple calf stretching exercise daily for three times. 
  • You have to stand against a wall with your hands placed at wall infront of your chest. 
  • Keep one of your leg at a distance of one feet from the wall. 
  • Keep the other leg at a distance of two to three feet from the wall (see image below). 
  • Take it far from wall till you feel a stretch in your leg. 
  • Hold for 1-2 minutes in this position. 
  • Repeat with the other leg.

If you get calf cramps at night, almost every night, you should consult your physician to identify the cause. If its a badly pulled calf muscle, it would need treatment which include medicines and physical therapy with deep tissue massage and gentle stretching exercises. If its an injury involving severe rupture in your calf muscles, you might have to go for a surgery too. Varicose veins can be treated with compression bandage and crtain exercises.

Other things that you can do to get relief from your night calf cramps include the following
  • Have optimum sleep.
  • Drink enough water.
  • If overweight, lose weight
  • If having medicines that cause your leg pain, see your doctor and resolve either by asking for alternative medicines or other ways suggested by your physician.
  • Quit smoking as it constricts the blood vessels giving you more cramps.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle and have healthy foods rich in potassium. Bananas, grapes, beans, apricots, dates, raisins, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, grapefruits, potatoes, corn, saltwater fish like tuna, all are good sources of potassium and other required minerals. Diabetics should avoid bananas, they can have coconut water instead.
  • Do regular calf muscle exercises so that your calf muscles get strong and flexible.
If you do regular calf muscle exercises and pay attention to a balanced diet, you can get rid of the cramps in calves at night. If this doesn't work, you must see your doctor to get relief from your calf cramps at night!

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