Leg cramps are a common and usually harmless condition where the muscles in yourleg suddenly become tight and painful.

It usually occurs in the calf muscles, although it can affect any part of your leg, including your feet and thighs.

Afterthe cramping has passed, you may have pain and tenderness in your leg for several hours.

Three out of fourcases occur at night during sleep.

Causes of secondary leg cramps caninclude:

  • pregnancy
  • exercise
  • certain types of medication, such as Statins (medicines that help lower cholesterol levels)
  • liver disease

During a cramp, your muscles suddenly contract (shorten), causing pain in your leg. This is known as a spasm, and you cannot control the affected muscle.

The cramp can last from a few seconds to 10 minutes. When the spasm passes, you will be able to control the affected muscle again.

They may also ask if you have other symptoms, such as numbness or swelling, which may be a sign that you have secondary leg cramps caused by an underlying condition.

In this case,you may need further tests, such as blood tests and urine tests, to rule out other conditions.

Treating leg cramps

Most cases of leg cramps can be relieved by exercising the affected muscles. Exercising your legs during the day will often help reduce how often you get cramping episodes.


To stretch your calf muscles, stand with the front half of your feet on a step, with your heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heels so that they are below the level of the step. Hold for a few seconds before lifting your heels back up to the starting position. Repeat a number of times.

Medication is usually only needed in the most persistent cases where cramping does not respond to exercise.

If you have secondary leg cramps, treating the underlying cause may help relieve your symptoms.

Leg cramps that occur during pregnancy should pass after the baby is born.

Treating cramps that occur as a result of serious liver disease can be more difficult. Your treatment plan may include using medications such as muscle relaxants.

  • If you lie on your front, hang your feet over the end of the bed this will keep your feet in a relaxed position and help stop the muscles in your calves from contracting and tensing.
  • Keep your sheets and blankets loose .

  • Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 5 Jan 2017