Ease the Pain of Muscle Cramps
You're on the final leg of your daily run when a cramp strikes your lower leg. What
causes this painful problem that's sometimes called a Charley Horse? Experts aren't
Cramps can occur during exercise when a muscle becomes tired from repeated activity
and when there's a salt/fluid imbalance. The muscle suddenly contracts, often causing
a very tight ball or knot.
Some cramps occur at night, long after exercise. Cramps do not mean there is a problem
with the muscle itself; rather, experts believe they happen when the fluid and electrolyte
imbalance catches up to you or when a nerve overstimulates a muscle. This can also
occur without exercise, as a symptom of some diseases or drugs, and for other unknown
Most exercise-related muscle cramps affect the leg, foot, or calf because they're
often in repeated motion.
Being in good condition can reduce the risk of cramps. If you get frequent muscle
cramps or if you just started getting them and you can't point to a particular exercise,
see your healthcare provider.
To prevent muscle cramps
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends doing flexibility exercises
before and after you work out to stretch the muscle groups most prone to cramping.
Drink plenty of fluids. That's even more important if you're working out for a long
time 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 is
very important to stay adequately hydrated. When you urinate, your urine should be
a pale color.
Stay in condition. Increase the amount and vigor of exercise slowly, over weeks and
months. Talk with your healthcare provider first.
To treat muscle cramps
If you're working out, stop at once.
Massage the muscle that's cramping.
Apply warmth to tense, cramped muscles and cold to sore, tender muscles.
Gently stretch the muscle. For example, sit with your leg outstretched, extend your
hands forward, and pull your toes back toward your knees.