Cramping in your calves overnight has a number of possible causes.
Many people have suffered from the sudden spasm of a calf muscle in the middle of the night, caused by tensing it a bit too much while stretching.
This pain is excruciating to high heaven, enough to make a grown man cry, but it is not a serious condition.
But what if the calf pain occurs in the absence of some careless stretching of a muscle that’s been stiffened by several hours of sleep?
This problem can occur even to physically fit people.
“Typically cramps in an athlete are caused by decreased circulation with oxygen after prolonged activity,” says Dr. Moshe Lewis, MD, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and has been the chief of PM&R at California Pacific Medical Center.
“This phenomenon can also be seen in diabetics and smokers who also have poor circulation for different reasons. Classically these two groups of patients also have pain when they walk called claudication.”
What are some other causes of calf pain or cramps overnight?
Dr. Lewis says, “In the non-athlete or someone who has not had prolonged activity that day, night cramps are due to sciatica.
“When nerves get pinched or impinged, positional changes at night can cause muscles to go into spasm.
“This occurs because nerves send key information to muscles which lets them work correctly. When those signals are disrupted muscles spasm.”
There are still yet other variables that can cause calf pain or cramping in the middle of the night, though these other causes can also cause symptoms during the day.
They are vasculitis, phlebitis, a herniated lumbar disc, potassium deficiency and DVT.
DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, is a blood clot that requires immediate medical attention, as it can dislodge and travel to the lungs, causing a fatal pulmonary embolism.
Dr. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Golden Gate Institute for Physical Medicine in CA, which provides education and clinical management of pain.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.