Why Do I Get Leg Cramps


Muscle cramps are a sudden, involuntary contraction of one or more muscles. If you’ve been woken at night or stopped your way by a sudden “charley horse”, you know that muscle cramps can cause severe pain and can make it unbearable to use the affected muscle.

They can affect the calf muscle, the area below the knee at the back of the leg, in addition to feet muscles and less often the thighs. After the cramping stops, the muscles may feel uncomfortable for up to 24 hours. Some medicines and certain health conditions may lead to muscle cramps.

You can treat muscle cramps with self-care methods at home. Being well hydrated in addition to some Vitamin supplements, nutrients, and home medication can decrease leg cramps occurrence. The Person can avoid activity-related cramps by avoiding physical exercise in case of fatigue

Causes of leg cramps

Lifestyle causes:

  1. Some activities make you more predisposed to leg cramps incidence. The workouts that depend mainly on leg muscles for example:
    • Putting too much Tension on muscles at the time of exercise, which can worsen in warm weather and moist weather as well
    • Sports that need lots of running for instance (basketball, or soccer)
    • Recreational (entertaining) running
  1.  Muscle Fatigue is the principal cause of leg cramps. The risks are even more complicated when muscles are fatigued in hot weather or when the person is not well-hydrated

Medical causes

Leg cramps can sometimes be caused by:

  • Elderly
  • Pregnancy: commonly in the late period
  • Certain medical conditions as well can increase the possibility of leg cramps more than usual like vascular disorder, diabetes, Primary adrenal insufficiency, Kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, sarcoidosis, Liver cirrhosis, and Thyroid abnormalities.
  • Cramps could also be related to certain medications, like asthma medication, Birth control pills, Albuterol, Diuretics, Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Insufficient fluid intake (dehydration)
  • Liver disease
  • Vitamin and minerals insufficiency
  • Since muscle spasms often occur in the evening when our legs are to some extent bent and our feet are pointed down, some professionals have suggested that this narrowing precipitates the spasm.

There is a major variety of things that can trigger leg cramps. It’s important to be aware that there is no certain clarification of any kind for leg cramp occurrence. So, it’s best to minimize the situation that can trigger any spasm possibility to avoid the painful manifestations.

Management and treatment for leg cramps

The clinician or GP will examine you trying to detect the cause of the leg cramp.

Lines of management will be suggested depending on the reason. That might be:

  1. Muscle stretching movements
  2. Vitamin deficiency is a probable cause of leg cramps, though research into this is ongoing. Vitamins like B1, B12, and Vitamin D can help relieve them along with Potassium and Magnesium
  3. Medical treatment: There is little indication that suggests medication for leg cramps is effective. Though, doctors possibly will advise the following medications: Orphenadrine, Carisoprodol, diltiazem, verapamil, and gabapentin. As Medications are not suitable for every person, The GP will discuss possible risks and side effects with you

Palliative things you can do at home about leg cramps:

At the time of the cramps:

There are some home therapies that individuals can attempt to cure muscle cramps:

  1. Muscle Stretching and massage may comfort the pain at the cramp time, even though most cramps cure without doing anything
  2. Drinking enough water to remain well hydrated
  3. Cooling down and warming up before physical activity
  4. Medication like ibuprofen or Paracetamol can help to decrease muscle pain after the cramps

Avoiding muscle cramps:

Regular calf-Stretching aerobics may help to decrease cramps probability but may not stop them from occurring.


How long does leg cramps last

Leg cramps are a common condition , it is usually harmless, and just lasts for only a short time from a few seconds up to 10 minutes. They can occur at any time, but more frequently people have them in the evening or during resting. Leg cramps occur due to shortness in leg muscles that cause unexpected pain which may make it hard to move.

How common are leg cramps

Night-time leg cramps are usually not reported to healthcare providers. In general, they occur in 40% of people over 50 years old, frequently increasing with age, and no sex preference was found. Cramps are commonly linked to sleep disturbance and generally poor health. Night-time leg cramps have been reported in nearly 7% of teenagers and children. The peak incidence in these people was at 16 to 18 years old, no cases were reported less than eight years old. Pediatric nighttime leg cramps are typically simple, self-limited, and infrequent.

Are there any signs that leg cramps are coming

Muscle cramps are sudden , sharp, self limited 

How are leg cramps diagnosed

To identify the reason for muscle cramps, your clinician will do a physical examination. They may ask you questions, for example:

  • How recurrently do the muscle cramps occur?
  • Which muscles are being affected?
  • Do you drink an adequate amount of fluids?
  • Are you taking any regular medication?
  • What are your workout habits?

You may as well need some blood tests to check the levels of minerals like calcium and potassium in the blood, in addition to a blood test to check thyroid and kidney function. You may take a pregnancy test as well.

Your clinician may order electromyography (EMG). This test is to measure muscle activity and detect any muscle abnormalities. An MRI also is a useful test. It is an imaging tool that forms a spinal cord image.

Occasionally, a myelogram, or myelography, might be helpful. They are diagnostic imaging studies usually done by a radiologist. A contrast dye is used and X-ray or computed tomography (CT) to detect any abnormalities in the spinal cord.

It is important to let your doctor recognize if you are suffering from any muscle pain, weakness, or loss of sensation. That manifestation can be an alert of the nerve disorder

When to see a doctor

Muscle cramps are generally harmless, resolve spontaneously, and don’t require medical interventions or considerations. However, you had better see a clinician if the muscle cramps become severe, don’t recover with muscle stretching, or continue for a long period. This possibly is a mark of an underlying health disorders

Though, see your doctor if the cramps:

  • Cause marked discomfort
  • Prolonged for more than seconds up to 10 minutes
  • Associated with skin changes, swelling, redness
  • Occur more frequently
  • Occur in association with muscle weakness
  • Not responding to self-care remedies
  • Associated with muscle weakness
  • Not related to clear reasons, for example, active workout

Any manifestation of leg numbness, swelling, or limited movement


Most muscle cramps occur in the leg muscles, especially in the calf. In addition, to the abrupt, sharp, severe pain, you may as well feel a firm swelling of muscle tissue below your skin. Occasionally, the cause for some cramps is unidentified. Individuals should see a clinician if they continuously complain of leg cramps after a workout or if the cramps are unfavorable impacting their capability to participate in day-to-day activities.

Mostly, the cramps will disappear within a few minutes. But if you have constant cramps, tell your doctor.

Currently, there are no medicines specifically prescribed to treat frequent muscle cramps. However, if cramping is a warning sign of added disorder, addressing that primary condition can provide relief.


  1. Young G. Leg cramps. BMJ Clin Evid [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2023 Jan 27];2015. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leg-cramps/
  2. Muscle cramp [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2021 [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820
  3. Higuera V. Muscle cramps: Causes, diagnosis, and treatments [Internet]. Healthline. 2012 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/muscle-cramps
  4. Abdulla AJ, Jones PW, Pearce VR. Leg cramps in the elderly: prevalence, drug and disease associations. Int J Clin Pract 1999; 53:494.
  5. Naylor JR, Young JB. A general population survey of rest cramps. Aging 1994; 23:418.
  6. Grandner MA, Winkelman JW. Nocturnal leg cramps: Prevalence and associations with demographics, sleep disturbance symptoms, medical conditions, and cardiometabolic risk factors. PLoS One 2017; 12:e0178465.
  7. Leung AK, Wong BE, Chan PY, Cho HY. Nocturnal leg cramps in children: incidence and clinical characteristics. J Natl Med Assoc 1999; 91:329.
  8. Leung AK, Wong BE, Cho HY, Chan PY. Leg cramps in children. Clin Pediatr (Phila) 1997; 36:69.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

Get our health newsletter

Get daily health and wellness advice from our medical team.
Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to this website may be placed by us on our servers. If you do not agree do not provide the information.

Alaa Soliman

Pediatrician, Medical interpreter, Research & Development Specialist, and Medical/Health Professional Writer

I believe in the importance of Health awareness and discussing behavioral factors like healthy nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and positive social connections. When people realize the hazards of certain lifestyle habits, they know the importance of making changes. Healthy behaviors can make changes to a more balanced life and decrease the risk and spread of diseases.

So, being part of an online medical library is a perfect way to write about health and wellness topics in a simple way that anyone can understand well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
Klarity / Managed Self Ltd
Alum House
5 Alum Chine Road
Westbourne Bournemouth BH4 8DT
VAT Number: 362 5758 74
Company Number: 10696687

Phone Number:

 +44 20 3239 9818