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5 Soothing Ways to Relieve Muscle Cramps

Being woken up in the middle of the night by the pain of a muscle cramp in the calf or foot is something most people know all too well. Or perhaps one has occurred in the midst of an intense workout or evening run. Defined as “an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax,” the cramps—which are sometimes referred to as “charley horses”—can be caused by many different things, such as poor circulation, muscle fatigue, dehydration, or as a side effect of certain medications.

Luckily, muscle cramps tend to last for only a brief period of time, ranging from a couple of seconds up to around 15 minutes. And with the help of these five home remedies, you’ll be back to your regular activities again in no time.

1. Stretch

Despite how painful the cramp may be, one of the best ways to help it pass is to stretch the muscle. The Mayo Clinic suggests placing your weight on the cramped leg and slightly bending the knee, while standing. If standing proves too painful, the source recommends sitting on the floor or in a chair and extending the cramped leg.

While less common, cramps can also occur in the back thigh (hamstring) or front thigh (quadriceps). For relief of a contracted hamstring, the Mayo Clinic says to try “pulling the top of your foot on the affected side toward your head while your leg remains in a straightened position.” For quadriceps spasms, they advise using a chair to assist with balance as you pull the foot of the cramped leg toward the backside.

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