Preventing Calf Cramps

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What you need to know about calf cramps: their containment, causes, care, and medical considerations.

Vicious calf cramps haunt the sleep of the innocent, turning sweet dreams into howls of pain. They are just as vicious in broad daylight, sending grown men and women into circles of random pacing, forcing them to stretch in unseemly situations, or worse, beat their lower extremities in frustration. Cold water and flat feet are common culprits lurking behind calf cramps, but diet, exercise, medical conditions, and even pregnancy can make them worse.

Preventing Calf Cramps

Since calf muscles are part of every ambulatory move, every walking and running step, every pedal-push on a bicycle, calves are usually the first muscles to cramp. Calf cramps can last a few seconds or several minutes, and the lingering soreness can last for days. Preventing calf cramps requires a diet rich in calcium and magnesium. Drinking enough water and maintaining proper form during exercise will also keep away calf cramps.

Bananas have loads of potassium which is a mineral that facilitates calcium uptake in the muscles. When you exercise, you use an enormous amount of these minerals to facilitate muscle contraction. If you don’t replenish them after a hard workout with either a banana or an energy drink to help restore proper mineral balance, you muscles are liable to cramp later.

Because most energy drinks have way too much sugar in them, it's wise to water them down. Fill a water bottle half-way with an energy drink of your choice. Fill the rest of the water bottle with water. Drink it slowly throughout the end of your workout and after your workout to help prevent calf cramps.

Mineral imbalance is also one of the culprits behind pregnancy-related calf cramps. In the latter half of pregnancy, the baby builds bone, blood and muscle from nutrition in the mother’s diet. If mom isn't consuming enough calcium, potassium and magnesium, her system will sacrifice from her own muscles and bones for the sake of the baby. Unfortunately, prenatal pills don’t contain enough calcium for mother and baby. If you are pregnant and getting lots of leg cramps, examine your diet. Make sure you are consuming lots of dairy, dark green veggies, and beans like limas, black, or refried beans. Calcium supplements might help, too.

Medical considerations of calf cramps

Calf cramps be indicative of life-threatening illness. If you have lower-leg pain, and you are over 50 with any risk for heart disease, then you need to talk to your doctor about Peripheral Artery Disease (P.A.D.) which drastically increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. If you get lower-leg pain, cramps, aching, or just a heavy feeling in your legs while walking or exercising, and you also have other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, please seek immediate medical advice. Find more information visit

Along with faintness not relieved by laying down, and fewer than three urinations in a 24-hour period, calf cramps are a symptom of moderate dehydration which is one step away from severe dehydration. When severe dehydration occurs, there is no longer enough fluid in the blood to deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs. The body will begin to shut down, requiring immediate emergency medical treatment.

Being properly hydrated will help prevent calf cramps.The average adult needs about 64 oz. of water per day. Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and soda act as diuretics and purge the body of other needed fluids. Soda is also a big calcium thief. Drinking two servings of clear fluids is recommended to balance the losses caused by just one caffeinated beverage.

Caring for calf cramps

Stretching is the worst thing to do when a calf-cramp first begins. Stretching too deeply or too quickly may exacerbate the cramp. Instead, slowly point and flex the foot while rubbing gently up and down the length of the muscle. Use the knuckles of the hand, gradually kneading deeper into the tightened ball of muscle from knee to heel.

"Walk it off." Go for a slow walk around the room. Once the cramp starts to relax, stop occasionally to lean face-first toward a wall. Press one heel into the floor, and then the other, working your feet further and further away from the wall. A long, relaxing soak in a hot bath is also curative.

One more way to cut out cramps is by cross-training during workouts. A well-rounded, calf-friendly workout might consist of riding a stationary bike, which is particularly good for the calves, along with walking and some Pilates or yoga.