Much like the Spanish Inquisition, nobody ever really expects leg cramps to strike. Whether lying in bed or taking a run, you have just enough forewarning to think, “Gah, no!” before a muscle knots and that sharp pain radiates throughout your leg. So what’s going on here?
Just about any muscle can clench up, but the legs—and especially the calves—are the most frequent site of trouble. This sudden and painful spasm of your muscles can happen for a variety of reasons:
- Inadequate Blood Supply – Cramps that happen during exercise might be traced to intermittent claudication, caused by a lack of sufficient blood flow to the muscles in their time of need. The pain will tend to recede when resting. Intermittent claudication can be a sign of narrowed arteries.
- Mineral Deficiency – A lack of calcium, potassium, or other minerals has been linked to cramping of muscles. Such a deficiency can happen in the last few months of pregnancy.
- Dehydration – Exertion and fatigue without enough water in your system can lead to this painful issue.
- Drug Side Effects – Certain medications including statins, steroids, and antipsychotics can have this symptom as a side effect.
There are other reasons a muscle spasm can occur, and sometimes one will just come and go and you’ll never know the real reason why. Most times, it will just pass on its own and require no care. If they happen frequently, though, or are accompanied by additional symptoms such as muscle weakness, swelling, or skin changes, they can be sign of an underlying problem.