Bill Ferguson
Registered Osteopath, Cranial Osteopath, Acupuncture and Sports Injuries
Tenterden Osteopath
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Special Topics

Some information about cramp


Help: I get woken at night by cramp. What can I do

Cramp is a strong, involuntary muscle contraction. It can happen any time but often follows unaccustomed exercise. It can affect any muscle, but is most common in the calf and foot. Cramp can be strong enough sometimes to pull a muscle and the pain can last for days.

I often get asked what causes cramp; what can you do when it happens and is there any way to stop it from happening. Everyone has probably experienced cramp. Most cramps happen in bed and it can be so strong and sudden that it makes you jump up to grab the affected part.


What can you do when it happens

Tip 1 – Feathering

The classic suggestion is to get out of bed and stand on some cold linoleum, well good luck trying to find lino these days. Bathroom tiles can be cold and quite effective but getting out of bed is tiresome, why not try “feathering”? Instead of squeezing the muscle; lightly stroke the skin over the spasm, it should feel like being stroked with a feather. It’s very effective; you just need enough presence of mind to do it.

Tip 2 – squeeze your nose

This works for toe and some foot cramps: pinch the skin on the bridge of your nose, where your spectacles would sit. By the time you count to 10 the cramp should have stopped.



Tip 1 - avoid pointing your toes. Make sure that you don't have very heavy bed covers, since they might just force the toes downwards to produce the cramps.

Tip 2 - get into the habit of doing calf stretches during the day. Stand on the bottom stair with your heels over the edge, knees straight and let your ankles relax so that your calf muscles get a stretch

Gastrocnemius stair stretch

Gastrocnemius (calf muscle) stretch on stairs



Myth – drink tonic water

Unfortunately modern tonic water no longer contains quinine so a couple of G&Ts are unlikely to prevent cramp


Other causes of cramp


If you started to get cramps soon after taking a new medication check with your GP or Google to see if this might be a side affect.


If you get cramp in more than one place at a time then I would suspect an electrolyte imbalance or dehydration. This is the sort of cramp that makes footballers writhe on the ground when they have been running for 90 minutes and the game goes into extra time. What happens is that the brain is telling the muscles to make the player run, the muscles are exhausted and unable to contract strongly enough and the brain just keeps pressing the buzzer. The result is a continuous contraction.

To work properly, muscles need a good supply of glucose and normal amounts of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. If it is a hot day and you are sweating a lot you may need to replace some sodium by salting your food.



Rhabdomyolysis: If cramps are followed by red or brown urine, your muscle tissue could be breaking down and releasing muscle contents into the blood. This is a medical problem needing immediate professional attention to prevent kidney damage. Treatment for acute rhabdomyolysis is high volume intravenous rehydration.

Deep vein thrombosis: If you get sudden severe cramp and swelling in the calf, especially after prolonged bed rest, or after a fracture of the leg, a thrombosis of the deep veins (DVT) is possible, and an urgent medical opinion is necessary.

Contact Bill Ferguson
Osteopath Tenterden

Book an osteopathy appointment now
Tel: 01580 762754

Bill Ferguson
Tenterden Osteopath
2 St Benets Court
Tenterden, Kent
Tel: 01580 762754



© Bill Ferguson
Last Updated: 26 August, 2015