How do I take care of myself?

Come up with a treatment plan with your healthcare provider that includes a prevention plan and an in-the-moment treatment plan. Ideas for a prevention plan include several activities you may want to do every day:

  • Exercise: Do leg exercises during the day, and mild, brief walking or biking right before bed.
  • Hydration: Drink eight glasses of water each day and avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
  • Medications and vitamins: Take all vitamins and medications (including muscle relaxants) exactly how they’re prescribed by your healthcare provider.
  • Prepare your bed space: Keep a heating pad and massage roller next to your bed.
  • Shoes: Purchase supportive shoes.
  • Sleeping position: Experiment with different positions to see if one works better than another. Keep your toes up if you’re on your back and hang your feet over the end of the bed if you lie on your front.
  • Stretch: Stretch your legs before and after exercising, and right before you go to sleep.

Your in-the-moment treatment plan could include the eight steps mentioned in the Management and Treatment section:

  1. Stretch. Straighten your leg and then flex it, pulling your toes towards your shin to stretch the muscles (using a towel can assist).
  2. Massage. Use your hands or a roller to massage the muscles.
  3. Stand. Get up. Press your feet against the floor.
  4. Walk. Wiggle your leg while you walk around.
  5. Apply heat. Use a heating pad or take a warm bath.
  6. Apply cold. Wrap a bag of ice in a towel and apply it to the area.
  7. Pain killers. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the pain.
  8. Elevate. Prop up your leg after the cramp starts to feel better.

When should I see my healthcare provider about my leg cramps?

See your healthcare provider if your leg cramps are unbearably painful, happen frequently or last for a long time. Also, talk to your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms in addition to leg cramps:

  • Muscle cramps in other parts of your body.
  • Significant pain.
  • Swelling or numbness in the leg.
  • Changes in the skin of your leg.
  • Waking up over and over again with leg cramps.
  • If your leg cramps are stopping you from getting enough sleep.
  • If you have fluid abnormalities or electrolyte imbalances.
  • See your healthcare provider immediately if you’re concerned that your leg cramps are a symptom of an underlying serious medical condition.

What questions should I ask my healthcare provider about leg cramps?

  • Do you think that my leg cramps are a symptom of an underlying condition?
  • Can you show me the best exercises I can do to stretch my muscles?
  • Can you show me the best massage techniques I can use to help with my leg cramps?
  • Is it safe for me to take medication for my leg cramps? Which medications should I take?
  • Do you recommend that I see a physical therapist, sleep specialist, massage therapist, or other specialist?
  • How can I help my child when they have a leg cramp?
  • Should I keep an eye out for symptoms other than leg cramps that might indicate a more serious condition?
  • How often should I come back to visit you about my leg cramps?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Leg cramps are can be unpredictable and agonizing. They can affect your sleep, your exercise routine and your general quality of life. They’re common – very normal – and, fortunately, temporary, and there are steps you can take to manage them. Do your best to avoid risk factors, avoid medications with leg cramps as a side effect and take recommended preventative measures.

If you’re concerned about the severity and duration of your leg cramps, or think that they may be caused by a serious condition, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider. Ask questions and voice your concerns. You don’t have to just “live with” leg cramps.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/03/2020.

References

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