Print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Leg cramp

Parerori waewae

Leg cramp is common and harmless but can be very painful. It usually happens at night or when you're resting.

A cramp is when a muscle contracts then doesn't relax. It can last from a few seconds to 15 minutes and may happen several times before going away completely.

Causes of leg cramp

Often there is no clear reason for leg cramp, but possible causes include:

Diagnosing leg cramp

If you have frequent leg cramps, you should see your general practice team to check if there is an underlying problem.

They will examine your legs and do blood tests.

Treating leg cramp

You can stop most muscle cramps if you stretch the muscle, either by standing up, massaging or by applying cold packs.

Stretch and massage a cramped leg by straightening it and pointing your toes upward, while gently rubbing the cramped area to help the muscle relax. For a calf cramp, put your weight on the affected leg and bend your knee slightly. For a thigh cramp, keep both legs straight and lean forward at your waist, using a chair to steady yourself.

Preventing leg cramp

Quinine used to be recommended for cramp but is not any more as it can have serious side effects.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2022.


Page reference: 266018

Review key: HISLE-11928