They can strike while jogging, or sometimes in the middle of the night — for no apparent reason. A sudden, painful cramp seizes your lower leg, the muscle contracting into a knot.
Cramps can occur when a muscle becomes tired from repeated activity and when there’s a fluid imbalance. Sometimes an illness or medication can cause them.
To prevent cramps, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends:
- Do flexibility exercises before and after you work out to stretch the muscle groups most prone to cramping.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you’re working out or it’s hot and humid. Unless you have a health condition or take medicine that requires you to restrict fluids, you should drink enough fluids during the day so that you have to urinate every 2 to 4 hours. During long periods of exercise, it’s important to stay adequately hydrated.
- Stay in good physical condition. Increase the amount and intensity of exercise slowly, over weeks and months.
To treat muscle cramps, stop working out if you’re exercising. Massage the affected muscle. Apply warmth to tense, cramped muscles or cold to sore, tender muscles. Gently stretch the muscles, straightening your leg and pulling your toes back.
Read more about muscle cramps in University Health System’s Health Library.