You may suffer from sudden cramps in (one of) your calves at night. These sudden cramps can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. You can either suffer from these regularly or sporadically. This will differ per person. You have an increased risk of nocturnal calf cramps if:
- You are a woman.
- You are pregnant.
- You have a vascular or nervous disease.
Nocturnal calf cramps can be caused by several things. These include:
- Because you have exercised too much or too intensively.
- Because you’re not drinking enough.
- Because you drink too much alcohol.
- Certain blood pressure lowering drugs.
If you suffer from nocturnal calf cramps, the muscles in your calves are contracting too quickly. You may also be suffering from sensitive and over-active nerves. This can be very unpleasant and painful.
There are a number of things you can do yourself if you suffer from nocturnal calf cramps. First of all, there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of nocturnal calf cramps. These include:
- Make sure you drink enough water during a day. The guideline for this is 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day.
- Reduce or stop your alcohol consumption.
- Exercise less for a while. You could also adjust the intensity of your exercising, so you don’t overload your muscles.
Secondly, there are a number of things you can do to help ease the calf cramps as and when you do have them. You could stretch your legs to reduce the cramp. Do this as follows:
- Place your hands straight against a wall and lean forward.
- Keep your foot on the floor as your leg extends back.
- Do this until the cramp has subsided.
- You can also contract your toes inwards.
Other things you can do are:
- Wearing good and appropriate shoes.
- Sleeping in a different sleeping position.
- Massaging your legs and calves.
- Putting your legs up.
- Taking a warm bath or placing a hot water bottle against your (affected) calf. Wrap a cloth around the water bottle if it’s very hot. This will stop you from getting burned.
In most cases, you won’t need to see your GP if you suffer from nocturnal calf cramps. We do recommend you contact your GP in the following situations:
- The calf cramps worsen and/or increase in frequency.
- The calf cramps are not going away.
- You’re worried.
- You plan to take medication for nocturnal calf cramps. Your GP will advise you about the right medicines. Not all medicines available on the market will actually have the desired effect.