Stretching or massaging the calf muscle may ease nocturnal leg cramps, as can applying warm water or a heating pad to the area, states WebMD. Placing an ice pack on the leg, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain reliever, and walking on the leg or shaking it may offer relief.
A helpful stretch for leg cramps can be performed by sitting with a straight leg, a rolled towel positioned under the flexed foot, and slowly pulling the towel toward the torso keeping the leg straight, according to WebMD. A standing calf stretch can be performed by leaning forward into a wall, leg straight and heel flat on the floor, while standing approximately 2 feet away from the wall. The knee of the unaffected leg should be bent.
While the cause of muscle cramps is often unknown, dehydration and insufficient amounts of calcium, magnesium and potassium are common precursors to cramps, or charley horses, explains WebMD. Certain medications, such as steroids, cholesterol-lowering statins and birth control hormones, can trigger cramps. Alcohol consumption can contribute to leg cramping, as can exposing the legs to cold water. Cycling is especially good for stretching and strengthening leg muscles, and staying well hydrated using sports drinks fortified with electrolytes is often helpful in controlling leg cramps.