You can usually treat muscle cramps with self-care measures. Your doctor can show you stretching exercises that can help you reduce your chances of getting muscle cramps. Making sure you stay well-hydrated also can help. For recurrent cramps that disturb your sleep, your doctor might prescribe a medication to relax your muscles.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you have a cramp, these actions may provide relief:
Stretch and massage. Stretch the cramped muscle and gently rub it to help it relax. For a calf cramp, put your weight on your cramped leg and bend your knee slightly. If you're unable to stand, sit on the floor or in a chair with your affected leg extended.
Try pulling the top of your foot on the affected side toward your head while your leg remains in a straightened position. This will also help ease a back thigh (hamstring) cramp. For a front thigh (quadriceps) cramp, use a chair to steady yourself and try pulling your foot on the affected side up toward your buttock.
- Apply heat or cold. Use a warm towel or heating pad on tense or tight muscles. Taking a warm bath or directing the stream of a hot shower onto the cramped muscle also can help. Alternatively, massaging the cramped muscle with ice may relieve pain.
Some suggest taking vitamin B complex supplements to help manage leg cramps. However, more research is needed to confirm this benefit.
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have muscle cramps that are severe, frequent and not getting better with self-care.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
When you make your appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance. Make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
- Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and family medical history
- All medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including dosages
- Questions to ask your doctor
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you receive.
For muscle cramp, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's likely causing my cramps?
- Are there other possible causes?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition temporary or chronic?
- What's the best course of action?
- What alternatives are there to the approach you're suggesting?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, including:
- When did you develop cramps?
- How frequent and severe are your cramps?
- Does anything typically precede your cramps, such as mild to strenuous exercise?
- Do you ever have cramps while resting?
- Does stretching relieve your cramps?
- Do you have other symptoms, such as muscle weakness or numbness?
- Have you noticed changes in your urine after exercise?
Aug. 08, 2017
- Muscle cramp. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00200. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Winkelman JW. Nocturnal leg cramps. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.
- Muscle cramps. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/approach-to-the-neurologic-patient/muscle-cramps. Accessed Nov. 18, 2015.