Leg cramps, popularly referred to as “charley horses”, are painful cramps caused by muscle spasms in your legs. These involuntary contractions of your leg muscles frequently occur in the calf muscles, and often strike mid-exercise or while you’re lying in bed. While they usually only last a few minutes, they can be very painful. They’re also quite common, as up to 60% of adults report experiencing nocturnal leg cramps. Leg cramps have many potential causes, most of which aren’t linked to serious medical conditions. But while you can usually wait them out, there are a few ways to reduce the likelihood of getting them in the future. What Causes Leg Cramps? It’s hard to identify one specific cause of leg cramps, especially when they occur out of the blue. Most of the time, they don’t represent a serious medical issue. Some of the most commonly identified causes include:
- Muscle Overuse: overusing your muscles can lead to muscle fatigue or spams. If you are exercising at a higher-than-normal intensity, or if you don’t stretch enough before or after exercise sessions, you may be putting yourself at risk for leg cramps.
- Dehydration: dehydration, especially among athletes, can lead to painful leg cramps.
- Medications: certain medications, including intravenous iron sucrose, naproxen, raloxifene, and intravenous iron sucrose have been linked to leg cramps.
- Medical conditions: certain conditions, including nerve damage from cancer treatment, osteoarthritis, and cirrhosis have been linked to leg cramps.
- Pregnancy: pregnant women often report leg cramps as a symptom of pregnancy.