Nocturnal Leg Cramps


Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden contractions of the lower leg and foot muscles. They often awaken you from sleep. The calf muscles are most often involved.

The Calf Muscles
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The specific cause of nocturnal leg cramps is unknown. These cramps may be related to imbalances in local muscle chemistry. This can be related to problems with nerves, muscles, or blood supply.

Risk Factors

Nocturnal leg cramps are more common in people aged 50 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of nocturnal leg cramps include:


The main symptom is sudden calf or foot cramps.


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.


Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. This may include treatment for any underlying causes of the nocturnal leg cramps.

If no specific cause can be found, treatment options include the following:

  • When cramps occur, stretch your leg muscles
  • Standing on the affected leg and walking often stops the cramping
  • Massage and hot or cold treatments help the muscles relax


No medication has proven to treat nocturnal leg cramps. Quinine, while often effective for reducing the frequency and intensity of cramps, has a significant risk of major allergic reactions.

Other medications have may be used in severe cases. These may include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Anticonvulsants


To help reduce your chance of nocturnal leg cramps:

  • Stretch during the day and just before going to bed
  • Exercise feet and legs regularly
  • Drink plenty of liquids
  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes


Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Allegiance Health or performed by Allegiance Health physicians.

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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

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