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Do you suffer from cramps?

Hello everyone!
One topic that comes up frequently in our group classes is cramps; Why do they happen? What causes them? Can I stop them from happening? How do I relax a cramp that wakes me up in the middle of the night?
I have done some research for you all and have put together a fact sheet to answer all these questions.
Feel free to chat to me if you would like any further information.
Happy exercising!


What is a cramp?

  • Uncontrollable and painful spasm of the muscle
  • Calf and foot muscles are particularly prone
  • Can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, generally resolving by itself

What causes cramps?

  • Exact cause is unknown
  • Risk factors may include
    • Poor physical conditioning
    • Tight muscles
    • Dehydration, mineral and electrolyte imbalances
    • Some medications, such as potassium-sparing or thiazidelike diuretics and inhaled long-acting Beta2-agonists (1)

Are cramps dangerous?

  • Usually harmless, although can be a symptom of an underlying medical disorder
  • Regular or severe cramping lasting longer then a few minutes should be investigated by your doctor

How do I decrease my risk of experiencing cramps?

  • Stretch your muscles (2) – Nightly stretching before bed can decrease occurrence and intensity of nocturnal cramps
    • Calves
    • Hamstrings
    • Quadriceps
  • Warm Up and Cool down effectively when you exercise
  • Stay hydrated - drink plenty of water before, during and after you exercise
  • There is weak evidence to suggest Vitamin B supplementation may be beneficial
  • There is only anecdotal evidence suggests magnesium may be effective in the treatment of leg cramps and is well tolerated in therapeutic doses, except in renal impairment. There is currently no statistically significant evidence to suggest magnesium will assist with leg cramps in older populations. Magnesium for muscle cramps (3,4)

How do I relieve a cramp when it happens?

  • Stretch the muscle that is experiencing the cramp
  • Massage the muscle to help it relax
  • An ice pack will help release strong persistent cramps

Have further questions?

  • Further information can be found at www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
  • Discuss any concerns with your GP


  1. Garrison SR, Dormuth CR, Morrow RL, Carney GA, Khan KM. (2011) Noctural Leg Cramps and Prescription Use That Precedes Them. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(2):120-126.
  2. Hallegraeff JM, van der Schans CP, de Ruiter R, de Greef MHG (2012) Stretching before sleep reduces the frequency and severity of nocturnal leg cramps in older adults; a randomised trial. Journal of Physiotherapy 58: 17-22
  3. Shane L Scahill BPharm, MMgt, (2013) Magnesium for Muscle Cramps. J PRIM HEALTH CARE 2013;5(3):253
  4. Garrison SR, Birminhmag CL, Koehler BE, McCollom RA, Khan KM (2011) The Effect of Magnesium Infusion on Rest Cramps: Randomized Controlled Trial. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2011 June;66A(6):661–666


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