Leg cramps are very common and usually harmless. They can happen at any time, but most people have them at night or when resting.
Leg cramps happen when a muscle suddenly shortens and becomes tight (spasms).
They can be very painful and make it hard for you to move. The cramps can last from a few seconds to 10 minutes.
They can affect the:
After the cramp has stopped, the muscle might feel tender for up to 24 hours.
Most cramps go away without you doing anything, but stretching and massaging the muscle can help to ease the pain.
Paracetamol or ibuprofen will not help when cramp is happening as they take too long to work. They can help to ease muscle tenderness afterwards.
Regular calf-stretching exercises might not completely prevent cramps, but may help to reduce them.
Your GP will examine you to try to find out the reason for your cramps.
They'll suggest a treatment depending on the cause.
This might be:
Quinine is not suitable for everyone. Your GP will discuss potential risks and side effects with you.
Cramps can sometimes be caused by:
The reason for some cramps is unknown.