Why Do I Get Calf Cramps?

When you get calf cramps, it's important to gently stretch that area. Also, avoid touching or massaging that muscle. Keep reading to learn more.
Why Do I Get Calf Cramps?

Last update: 08 April, 2020

Surely throughout your life this has happened to you, and you’ve wondered why you get calf cramps. You might even wonder what’s really happening in that part of your body that causes so much pain. Well, it’s nothing more than an involuntary muscle contraction.

The back of the calves have a rounded shape. In fact, they’re actually made up of different muscles. One of them is the triceps surae muscle, which is the one involved in this problem.

Most people experience calf cramps at night, with intense pain that wakes them up. In this article, we’ll explain why it happens and what to do to alleviate or prevent this discomfort.

Why do calves cramp?

When you get calf cramps, what actually happens is the involuntary contraction of the triceps surae muscleThis muscle shortens, making it possible to even see it with the naked eye. In addition, it’s very painful.

Researchers don’t know exactly why they happen. However, we do know some factors related to it. First, it’s associated with intense exercise over a long period of time. Also, it happens by not working out properly.

The same thing happens when you work out without having warmed up your muscles. It seems that exercise, along with not being hydrated, causes toxins to build up in the muscles. Therefore, it causes muscle contractions.

However, with calf cramps, the cause isn’t always from working out. In fact, there are many factors that can trigger them. For example, alcohol, coffee, tobacco, certain medications or a bad diet can trigger them.

A diagram of calf muscles.

When someone repeatedly gets calf cramps and it has nothing to do with exercise, it could be a symptom of another condition. It’s important to know that when there’s a circulatory problem, if blood doesn’t reach the muscle correctly, then you could get cramps.

In fact, this is common starting at age 60. Atherosclerosis is a condition where cholesterol builds up in blood vessels. Therefore, in these areas, there’s a weaker blood flow. Then, the blood doesn’t go everywhere it should.

This change in blood flow happens in pregnancy, although it’s something physiological. Pregnant women, during the last trimester, often get calf cramps.

A medical test of a calf muscle.

You might be interested: Muscle Strain: Symptoms and Treatments

What to do when you get calf cramps

As you may already know, it’s most common to get calf cramps in the middle of the night, causing you to wake up. If this happens repeatedly, it’s best to carry out a small stretching routine before going to bed.

Also, it’s important to mention that when exercising, you have to progress slowly. In other words, gradually increase in intensity, not all at once. You also have to know when to rest, and do it properly.

In addition, don’t forget to prepare your muscles before exercising. The same goes for hydration and diet. As we’ve seen, dehydration can cause these calf cramps.

Some experts recommend certain physical therapy exercises to prevent them. Ideally, do gentle stretches that stretch the muscle in a controlled way. Avoid standing on tiptoes or touching the area. In fact, these movements can cause another muscle spasm.

However, if you get calf cramps frequently, it’s important to see a doctor. Your doctor will need to see if some other type of pathology is causing this situation.

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