A muscle cramp is described as an involuntary contraction of a muscle that will not relax. There are several different types of these cramps, including in the calves. These are also sometimes called a “charlie horse.” An entire muscle, or even just fibers in that muscle that involuntary contract starts out as a spasm, and if the spasm will not relax or stop it can turn into a cramp. The cramp may appear while engaging in activity, but just as often happen while the body is at rest. They are extremely common and has been estimated that almost everyone, or 95% of people will experience one at some point in their lifetime.
What can cause a muscle cramp in calves?
True cramps (cramps that involve part of or all of a single muscle or group of muscles) might be a protective reaction to a possible injury. The spasm will appear to minimize movement in the affected or injured area to prevent further damage or injury. These type of crams are often associated with vigorous and taxing activity, such as endurance or intense sports. On the flip side, rest cramps are also very common, especially in older adults. They typically happen at night and can be very painful – also very commonly in the calf.
Dehydration is a major factor and increases the likelihood of cramps. They are more common in warmer weather, and may act as a sort of warning sign of heat stroke. Sodium depletion, as well as magnesium & other mineral deficiencies and can also be associated with these types of cramps.
What can I do to help ease the camp in my calf?
First, try to relax the muscle as much as possible. If you are engaging in activity, then stop immediately to try to ease the contracted muscle. Try a light stretch and gentle massage to release the fibers. Warm water soak or heating pad can also help relax the contraction if it continues once you have stopped activity.
One the muscle fibers have released, you may experience a soreness from the cramp, and can treat it like any other muscle injury or soreness: Ice the affected area. Take over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Advil, Motrin or Aleve. Drink plenty of fluids and follow a well balanced and nutrient rich diet full of natural electrolytes, vitamins and minerals. If the cramping persists, consult with your physician for further treatment and diagnosis.