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Cramps in Calf Muscle

cramps in calf muscle

What are Calf Muscle Cramps

Cramps in Calf Muscle are painful spasms of the Gastrocnemius Muscle. These uncontrolled spasms or pain in the calf muscle can last anything from a few seconds up to over 15 minutes. They can return frequently over a short period of time or over an extended period of months or years. Cramps such as cramps in calf muscle take place in skeletal muscles which are normally under our voluntary control. It is possible to get cramps or spasms in involuntary muscles such as the gut (colic) or uterus (period pains) but we are discussing calf muscle cramps here.

What Causes Cramps in Calf Muscle

Cramps in calf muscle can occur either at rest, sitting in a chair or lying in bed, or during activity especially towards the end of prolonged activity or fairly soon after stopping.

After prolonged exercise, especially in hot conditions, there is a loss of fluid in the body through sweating.
Sweat consists mainly of water but contains the other chemical elements Sodium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium.
A loss of fluid or a drop in the concentration of any of these chemicals can lead to cramps in calf muscle.
That is why it is important to stay hydrated during prolonged exercise – ideally with electrolyte drinks.
Taking diuretics – drugs to help eliminate water from the body can also cause cramps in calf for the same reason.
Low levels of Calcium or Magnesium in the blood can cause cramps in calf muscle and these minerals can be lowered during pregnancy so it is important to take supplements.

Calf Muscle Twitching

Benign Fasciculation Syndrome

As can be seen in the video of Fred’s Calf Muscle Twitching above BFS is a condition that causes the muscles fibres in the calf to involuntarily twitch or fasciculate. While this is obviously very annoying there is generally no pain associated with it. Some people get very anxious about the possibility of ALS, Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis. While twitching can be present with these conditions it is very very rare for them to start off with twitching. Anxiety may actually make the twitching worse.
It is suspected that there is a problem with the potassium channel mechanism in the nerves supplying the muscles fibres and it is this that causes the twitching.

It is possible to get Calf Muscle Twitching after prolonged exercise take a look below at the YouTube clip of Tom’s Calves after a marathon :

Cramps in Calf Muscle at Night

There are a few medical conditions that make you more susceptible to cramps in calf muscle at night such as Hypothyroidism, Addison’s Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Circulatory disorders.
The other factors causing calf cramps at night are similar to cramps after activity – dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. These can be caused by diuretics and diarrhoea and vomiting as well as not rehydrating properly after exercise.

If any of these problems persist then it is worthwhile seeking medical advice.

Advice for Cramps in Calf Muscle

From a sporting point of view hydration and electrolyte balance are the main solutions.
Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids especially with prolonged exercise or on hot days.
If you sweat a lot then it is important to replace fluids regularly both during and for a few hours after exercising.
Water is fine although Sports Drinks containing Sodium, Potassium and other elements may be more beneficial. Be careful of the sugar content of some though! Check the calories in the drink because if you drink a lot of it this may be important. Also some drinks can have a lot of caffeine in them.

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