A leg cramp is a painful, involuntary contraction of a single muscle or group of muscles in the leg. Most commonly, leg cramps occur in the calf muscles, but the thing muscles can also be affected. Typically, these cramps take place at night, sometimes awakening the individual from sleep, and last anywhere from less than a minute to several minutes before subsiding. They are most often experienced by adolescents and the elderly.
The exact cause of leg cramps is not understood. However, the occurrence of these cramps has been linked to a number of risk factors, including muscle fatigue, heavy exercising, dehydration, excess weight, electrolyte imbalance, and the use of certain medications.
Gentle stretching of the muscles, a well-balanced diet, adequate rest, and warm baths or showers taken before retiring at night can all reduce the occurrence of leg cramps. By helping to ensure electrolyte balance, certain vitamins and nutritional supplements can also normalize muscle function and prevent painful contractions.