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.