11 Causes of Leg Cramps

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Leg cramps represent an involuntary contraction of leg muscles that are usually harmless. Cramps occur most frequently at night and may last from a couple of seconds to 10 minutes. Cramps in the leg may affect any region of the leg including thighs, calf or feet muscles. Sometimes, leg cramps may be quite painful, and muscle tenderness following cramps may persist for a whole day.

Pain relief meds such as ibuprofen or paracetamol are not helpful for resolving the pain originating from muscle cramps.  Therefore, it is quite important to comprehend the underlying causes of muscle cramps to prevent them from happening or at least significantly reduce their frequency.

Below are some of the most common causes of leg cramps. Some represent the physiological response to exercise or volume depletion, while others occur due to pathological conditions and require the attention of a healthcare professional.

1. Dehydration

Dehydration is known to be one of the most common causes of leg cramps. Inadequate hydration during physical exercise or any exertion, especially during the summer, may provoke leg cramps. Athletes most especially need to be aware of this and take the necessary precautions.

If you sweat a lot during exertion it is advisable you take plenty of water to keep the correct balance of water and electrolytes in the body – this will help to reduce or fully eliminate leg cramps.

2. Mineral Deficiency

Inadequate intake of several minerals might aggravate leg cramps.  When sweating, the body is not only losing water, but also losing minerals that are essential for the nerves and muscle function. The loss of water, combined with the loss of minerals and electrolytes causes instability of the muscles and nerves which directly leads to the development of leg cramps.

The imbalance of sodium, magnesium, and calcium are usually blamed when muscle cramps occur. A proper intake of liquid enriched with electrolytes and minerals, such as sports drinks, will help prevent the development of muscle cramps. Also, foods enriched with minerals and electrolytes, such as bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach or yogurt will provide the sufficient amounts of minerals to keep the leg cramps from developing.

More causes on next page…

About Dr Alex Grbovic 13 Articles
Dr Aleksandar Grbović is a medical doctor from the Belgrade University, Faculty of Medicine. He is passionate about promoting medicine by bridging the gap between the patient’s and doctor’s point of view. Currently working in the biggest Occupational Medicine Institute in Serbia and attending the Radiology residency program.


The content of this website is not intended to be taken as a replacement for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis or treatment of a doctor, dietician, nutritionist or fitness instructor. If you experience any medical symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.