Nighttime (or nocturnal) leg cramps are a sudden tightening
(contraction) of the leg muscles, usually in the calf. But the muscle cramps
can sometimes happen in the thigh or foot. They often occur just as a person is
falling asleep or waking up. Leg cramps can be painful. They can last a few
seconds to a few minutes. Nighttime leg cramps are sometimes called charley
Though nighttime leg cramps are common, experts don't know exactly
what causes them.
To stop a leg cramp, while sitting, straighten your leg and bend
your foot up toward your knee. It may help to place a rolled towel under the
ball of your foot and, while holding the towel at both ends, gently pull the
towel toward you while keeping your knee straight. This stretches the calf
muscles. The leg cramp usually goes away after a few minutes. Some people find
that a hot shower or a warm bath helps. Others get relief by rubbing the
calf with an ice pack.
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Karin M. Lindholm, DO - Neurology
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