Have you ever been awoken by a horrible calf cramp? When the muscles of the low leg cramp up it can be extremely painful and can also extend into the soles of the feet. Calf cramps are common during pregnancy and when starting or changing your exercise routine. The cramps occur in the gastrocnemius muscles or soleus muscles, and can be surprisingly intense.
There are a few possibilities for why you might be getting cramps. Deficiencies in any of the minerals that your muscles use for contraction could be a culprit. Those minerals are potassium, calcium and magnesium. Also, changing the type of shoe you usually wear could have an affect on your calves. For example, wearing high heels all the time keeps the calf tight and somewhat contracted. If you were to switch to wearing flats, which take the muscles through a fuller range of motion, this would count as an increase in the work load for the muscle and could potentially cause some cramping. Being dehydrated is another factor in having those pesky cramps. Be sure to drink plenty of water, particularly following a work out. Adding some regular stretching of the calf muscles is also a good idea, for everyone, but especially if you are suffering from cramps. Certain medications can also make you more prone to cramping, so be sure to check the side effects of anything that you are taking.
So what can you do in the moment for these painful cramps? Sometimes a gentle massage to the area is enough to stop it, as well as gently moving the ankle or walking. If that is not doing the trick, try bringing your toes towards your nose (flexing the foot). It's great if you can give that motion a little bit of resistance as well. If you can easily reach down to your foot you can put your hand on top of the foot and resist the motion of flexing the foot towards you. You can also use the other foot on top to provide that resistance.
Following these steps should help to ease the cramp a bit and let you get back to sleep!