How to Deal With Nighttime Leg Cramps

What to know

Nighttime leg cramps (charley horse) often can’t be attributed to a single cause. They’re sometimes associated with dehydration or an electrolyte imbalance, certain drugs such as diuretics, excessive sweating, dialysis, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, or thyroid disease.

Common symptoms

Most often, people complain of a sudden, involuntary, painful cramp in one leg (typically in the calf) or a “knot” (hardness and tightness in the affected muscle) that occurs at night while in bed. Sound familiar? Here's how to find relief.

Stretch it out

Stretch the affected muscle; relieve a calf cramp by keeping your leg straight and pointing your toes up toward your knee.

Walk it off

Try to walk or wiggle your leg, then elevate it.

Massage the pain

Massage the affected muscle with ice wrapped in a towel.

Add warmth

Take a warm bath or a hot shower, directing water at the muscle for about five minutes.

Drink up

Prevent future episodes by staying well hydrated.

When to see a doctor

Your doctor may recommend a physical exam and blood tests or suggest daily stretching exercises, mineral and vitamin supplements, or prescription drugs to help muscles relax or improve sleep.