A calf cramp is a muscle spasm that usually occurs when the calf muscle is unable to recover as a result of being overworked and exhausted.
A calf cramp are the most common form of cramp that we hear reported in our clinic. Calf cramps do not generally occur randomly and shouldn’t be happening if you are treating your body well. The good news is that calf cramps can be easily solved, reduced and eradicated by implementing some simple strategies.
Why does a calf cramp occur?
Before we hash out the solution, it’s always valuable to take a minute to learn why calf cramps even occur in the first place? By understanding the cause, you can make recovery quicker by avoiding the the things that cause the cramp in the first place.
Role of the calf muscle
“The calf” muscle refers to a group of muscles at the back of the shin bone (tibia). The specific muscles involved are gastrocnemius (primarily) and soleus (secondary). The calf serves to plantar flex the ankle (pointing the toes away from your body). This plantarflexing movement occurs often in everyday life but especially repetitive during walking.
Every step you take, the calf undergoes one contraction. So the more steps, the more contractions the calf muscle endures. The more contractions the more work the muscle goes through and the muscle gets closer to fatigue.
The calf also works in other movements but in the case of calf cramps walking is the primary contributor to calf fatigue and subsequent cramping.
Why a calf cramp occurs
A cramp occurs when an overworked muscle isn’t able to recover properly or quickly enough. Because the muscle fibres are fatigued, they undergo some damage and the healing process aims to repair the damage done to the muscle. Usually this process is very efficient and silent. It is a vital step for muscle growth. However, in cases of cramp, the muscle isn’t able to be repaired properly. In most cases, the issue is a lack of water (dehydration) or a lack of electrolytes which serve to help the muscle absorb the water to assist with the repair.
How to reduce calf cramps?
1. Improve calf strength & endurance through exercise
Complete exercises such as:
- Seated calf raises
- Standing calf raises
- Single leg calf raises
2. Stretch your calves daily
- Standing calf stretch
- Calf stretch on step
- Calf stretch against wall
3. Drink more water
- Especially on days where you walk more or exercise.
- You need a lot of hydration while you sleep so make sure you have some before bed.
4. Take an electrolyte supplement or increase salt intake
- Sometimes even if you drink enough water it is not absorbed well by the body. Taking an electrolyte supplement is a good way to assist with absorption of water. Also simply adding more salt to food or to your water is a simple alternative.
- Supplementing and increasing salt intake is especially relevant if you are on a low calorie diet.
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