Fitness,  Food & Nutrition

How to stop leg cramps immediately & prevent cramps before they begin

Published by Finn Hayden

Cramps are enough to stop you completely dead in your training (or competition) and even enough to cause you preventable injury! If you're an athlete who trains multiple times a week (or per day) then cramps are an occupational hazard. Whether they appear during your training, or late at night, we wanted to write a little bit of information about how to immediately stop cramps and to prevent them in the first place.

So, this is everything you need to know about avoiding cramps and how to stop them in their tracks.


How to stop leg cramps immediately?

The tried and tested method to stop cramps almost immediately is to stop, and apply very gentle pressure against the cramp and massage the muscle gently. This should start to lose the initial cramp off, but be aware that the muscle will still be prone to cramping, so continue to allow your muscle to relax, while applying slight pressure against the muscle. It is best to stop exercising until your cramp has gone away completely.

An example of this is one of the most common cramping spots, your calf. You should stop, sit down and hold your toes to gently bring the toe towards your knee - do not yank, but apply gentle pressure. As the cramp subsides you will be able to feel the muscle loosen off and keeping your calf relaxed, and under gentle pressure will prevent any secondary complete spasms of the muscle.

The cause of the cramp is most likely due to your levels of hydration; so, once the immediate cramp has subsided you should drink some water and try to hydrate yourself. This is when an electrolyte drink comes in very handy.

Once you've had some water, continue to massage your muscles gently and apply hot and cold therapy if needed. You may experience muscle soreness after the cramp, which tells you that you need to rest as you could be much more susceptible to an injury.


How to prevent muscle cramps

The process of preventing muscle cramps will not completely irradicate them, but it is the best way to avoid them and limit your susceptibility to s sudden cramps. There are two main causes of cramps: dehydration and over-use. Both are caused by not giving the muscle what it needs.

Warm-ups & warm-downs

Firstly, the leading cause of injury is not preparing your muscles correctly before exercise, and not creating a self-care routine to loosen any tight spots that will cause cramps. Some people miss one or the other, but both are crucial for performance and injury/ cramp prevention.

You should warm up gently, particularly before a difficult or strenuous session. It is recommended to do gentle cardio before any kind of session, whether that be 10-15 minutes of cycling and running, followed by dynamic stretching and pliability exercises. This has a greater impact on your body's ability to perform and can improve your fitness while you're at it.

A warm-down should involve another 5-10 minutes of light cardio and a routine of stretches. These should focus on the muscles you've used during the session, or those that cause you the most problems with cramping. There is an argument to take your stretching into a sauna or spend time in a warm bath directly after your session. The warm water will enable your body to increase blood flow to the muscles, and boosting the recovery.


Hydrate correctly - Electrolytes

Many cramps are caused by dehydration and when your muscle is not getting enough sodium. There are plenty of studies showing the role of sodium in preventing cramps. While hydration is a key issue, it is actually your body's loss of electrolytes which creates the perfect environment for cramping. If you're sweating heavily and not replacing your electrolytes, then you;re much more likely to cramp.

If you're training in a warm environment, it is a good idea to enjoy an electrolyte drink before, during or after your training session. This will help your body hydrate better and also keep your levels of Electrolytes topped up.


Final Thoughts

So, hopefully, you've found this post useful for both preventing a cramp and stopping a cramp immediately as they come. Cramps are extremely uncomfortable so we hope that the strategies in this post have at least been helpful.

If you have any experiences with cramps or would like to share your own tips and tricks for stopping them (and preventing them) then put your comment in the section below.

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