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Why Do I Get Calf Cramps during My Morning Stretch??

By Christine LaFleur
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Calf cramps occur when the muscles between the knee and foot contract suddenly. You might get these cramps upon waking when you stretch in bed, or you might experience them after getting out of bed. These cramps, which are sometimes referred to as charley horses, are harmless but can be very painful. The calf muscle usually affected is called the gastrocnemius. There is no known specific cause of cramps in the calf, but there are factors that might make you more susceptible to painful cramps in your calves, such as certain diseases or medications, dehydration or recent excessive use of the calf muscles.

There are activities associated with calf cramps in the morning. If you overexerted your muscles on the previous day, you might wake up with cramped calves. People who stand on hard surfaces or sit for prolonged periods of time are more likely to experience cramps in the calf in the morning. Sitting in unusual positions for prolonged periods of time and dehydration also are risk factors.

Certain diseases might cause you to experience cramped calves when you stretch in the morning. People who have diabetes, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, hormone disorders and chemical imbalances might have a higher incidence of calf cramps. Medications such as lithium, statins, morphine and blood pressure medications might also contribute to cramped calves.

You might experience a calf cramp in one leg or both legs, and you might get them frequently or just every now and then. Some people have a higher risk of getting calf cramps. People who are older than 50, people who work standing on their feet, pregnant women and people who have alcoholism might experience them more often than others.

The best way to prevent cramped calves is to stretch your muscles before you go to bed. Gently pull your toes toward you to stretch your calf. This also can be done when are you experiencing calf cramps to help relieve the pain.

Another way you can prevent cramped calves is to make sure that you wear properly fitted shoes. Loose sheets that allow you to sleep with your leg muscles relaxed will also help prevent cramping. Drink plenty of water so you are well hydrated.

If you do experience cramped calves, you can relieve the pain by stretching the muscle or standing on the leg that hurts. The cramp should not last more than a few minutes, but a severe cramp might leave your calf sore. A hot or cold pack might help relieve a sore calf.

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Discussion Comments
By anon990806 — On May 11, 2015

You can stretch that calf muscle first thing in the morning. The key is to pull your toes toward your head and not away like pushing down on the gas pedal. Trust me on this, as one who in 56 years has experienced hundreds of 'morning cramps'. Not one cramp using this technique.

By sportsfan34 — On Mar 15, 2013

Eating right is half the battle. You need the daily amount of vitamins and minerals to stay completely healthy. Another way to avoid getting calf cramps is to do some walking first to warm up your muscles. It's never a great idea to stretch them while they are cold or else you will get cramps or might even pull a muscle.

Once your muscles are warm and ready, stretch them daily. Even if you are walking a quarter mile, it's something. I used to run a few Warrior Dashes so I use preventative lotions before I go work out normally. You might want to check out this lotion called Cramp911. I used to apply it to relieve my problems, but now I put it on before and it helps prevent them from occurring. Hope this helps.

By anon322156 — On Feb 26, 2013

@Kristee: So a banana a day keeps the leg cramps away? Might have to try that.

By cloudel — On Jan 11, 2013

I didn't realize that dehydration could cause this. I think this is the reason I've been getting calf cramps at night.

I wake up in the early morning hours in severe pain from a calf cramp. Sometimes, it is so bad that I scream or cry.

I don't drink much water before going to bed, because I don't want to have to get up several times during the night to pee. Whenever I wake up, I am really thirsty, and my throat is parched.

I'm going to start drinking water before bed and see if that helps. If I do get up during the night, I'll drink a little more water then, too.

By lighth0se33 — On Jan 11, 2013

Stretching might help for mild leg cramps, but for the severe kind, nothing can help. You just have to endure it until it passes.

I used to get severe calf cramps whenever I stretched first thing in the morning. After a few times, I learned not to stretch. It was hard to remember at first, because I wake up all groggy, but I finally trained myself to remember the pain of the cramps.

By Kristee — On Jan 10, 2013

@kylee07drg - Yes, a lack of potassium in your diet can cause nighttime calf cramps, as well as other cramps throughout the day. I read this while looking for the reason for my cramps, and I decided to do something about it.

I started eating a banana every day, since bananas are a good source of potassium. On the days when I forgot to eat one, I would get cramps at night. On the days when I remembered, I had no cramps at all.

It's pretty easy to work a banana into my breakfast meal every morning. It's more enjoyable than swallowing a supplement, and it gives me energy and fills me up.

By kylee07drg — On Jan 10, 2013

I have heard that a lack of certain vitamins or minerals can cause calf cramping. Does anyone know anything about this? I'd like to know what I should be getting plenty of in my diet to prevent cramps.

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