Leg cramps, also known as Charley horses, can be relieved through stretching, massages or taking a bath in Epsom salt. Both icing and heating the muscles provide relief, though not simultaneously. Treatment depends on where the cramp is located. For a cramp in the calf or hamstring, WebMD recommends putting more weight on the affected area and bending the knee slightly. For a quad cramp, pull the foot back.
Applying heat or ice allows the muscle to relax and reduces muscle pain and tenderness. The Mayo Clinic warns that night leg cramps increase with age, but no underlying cause has been found. Both WebMD and the Mayo Clinic recommend a diet high in calcium and magnesium and stress the importance of staying well-hydrated. The Mayo Clinic also suggests performing light exercise and stretching before bed.
The Mayo Clinic also warns that prolonged sitting and certain medications increase the likelihood of painful leg cramps at night. Sometimes regular leg cramps are a warning sign of an underlying thyroid or metabolic condition. The severity and duration of the pain that an individual experiences varies. For those who are in too much pain to stand or leave their beds, the Mayo Clinic suggests straightening the leg and flexing the top of the foot to point at the head to stretch and loosen the muscles.