When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

For most people, night leg cramps are merely an annoyance — something that jerks you awake infrequently. But in some cases, you may need to see a doctor.

Seek immediate medical care if you have

  • Severe and persistent cramping
  • Night leg cramps after being exposed to a toxin, such as lead

Schedule an office visit if you

  • Have trouble functioning during the day because leg cramps interrupt your sleep
  • Develop muscle weakness and atrophy with leg cramps

Self-care

Activities that might help prevent night leg cramps include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Stretching your leg muscles or riding a stationary bicycle for a few minutes before you go to bed
  • Untucking the bed covers at the foot of your bed

Activities that might help relieve night leg cramps include:

  • Flexing your foot up toward your head
  • Massaging the cramped muscle with your hands or with ice
  • Walking or jiggling the leg
  • Taking a hot shower or warm bath

Although once widely used, the medication quinine is no longer recommended because of risks associated with its use.

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Dec. 09, 2020