The Basics on Leg Spasms

Leg spasms are one of the various stresses and glitches that can occur in one’s legs. If you’ve started having issues with the muscles in your legs then you might be curious if there’s anything that you can do to cut back on these odd occurrences or even prevent them. In most cases, muscle spasms in the leg are a common condition that most of us experience every now and then as a side effect of muscle use, overuse, and strain. That being said, certain neurological and degenerative disorders can lead to muscle dysfunction. Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about what goes on during a leg spasm and how you can treat and prevent them in the future.

What are Leg Spasms?

What we simply call a “leg spasm” is technically defined as an involuntary contraction of a muscle or series of muscles that typically lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes, although they can last for a significant amount of time depending on the circumstances. A muscle spasm is most often accompanied by pain or a significant level of discomfort. Leg spasms tend to occur most in the calf area, but other common places include the thigh, arch of the foot, and toes. The sensation felt with a leg spasm involves unintentional tightening of the muscles that feels very unnatural. The pain can range from very uncomfortable to excruciating, although they do tend to be short-lived. This sensation can come on fast and strong with very little warning or it may come on in waves of tensing and release until finally building up into a strong cramp. Some leg spasms die away quickly once the muscle is rested and coaxed into a relaxed state, while other spasms switch on and off several times before the cramp finally goes away for good.

Dehydration and Electrolyte Depletion

Leg spasms are caused by a number of things. One of the most common culprits behind a leg spasm is an imbalance or loss of water and electrolytes. In order for the muscles in your body to interact with one another and perform even the slightest actions, they have to have an adequate amount water and minerals, primarily potassium, sodium, and calcium. These items all play a part in oxygen transportation and if even one element is depleted it can result in malfunction of muscle tissues. Don’t be surprised to find that a long run on a hot day, completely with plenty of sweating and not enough water intake, can end with a very unpleasant case of leg spasms.

Extensive or Improper Muscle Use

Overuse and abuse of your leg muscles is another sure way to induce cramps. The muscles in your body are designed to grow. This occurs by adding small amounts of physical strain over a long period of time in moderate increments. With the slow increase in strain, your muscles develop microscopic tears and then fill in the gaps with newly made muscle tissues. This is how you gain muscle mass. If you try to take on too much activity in a short period of time you can actually cause tissue damage to the muscles which causes them to short-out or spasm. Deciding to start off a brand new exercise routine with a mile-long jog may seem like a good way to get into shape fast, but if your body isn’t used to this kind of workout then the muscles in your legs are certainly going to protest!

If you wear shoes, especially flats, that lack a supportive sole then it might actually be your shoes which are leading to muscle strain in your legs. The way that you walk has a lot to do with how your muscles interact together. If you wear shoes that concentrate the pressure and strain on just a few certain areas rather than distributing the impact on several large areas, you could end up with very crampy calves and upper thighs! If you’re shaking your head with the “I-should’ve-known” grimace on your face, then it’s probably safe to assume that you need some new shoes or, at least, supportive sole inserts!


If you’re pregnant then, like many women before you, you’re probably struggling to handle the random and persistent leg spasms that seems to frequent women in your situation. You might joke that the cramp-monsters simply find pregnant women to have yummier muscles, but the realistic theory behind this occurrence is that pregnant women put on a lot of weight in a relatively short period of time. During the nine short months of your pregnancy your legs suddenly have to manage with an increased burden and the physical results of this suffering result in temporary short-outs.

Another contributor could be that mom-to-be’s circulation is going a bit haywire. While mom has a lot of extra blood being pumped around her body, it also has a higher chance of pooling in areas like the legs and feet. Taking a 20 minute walk during lunch, propping the legs up (above heart level) for half an hour, or doing a few pregnancy-safe yoga moves can help keep mom’s blood flowing nicely so that it can deliver fresh oxygen to her muscles and all of the other cells in her body. Rapidly-changing hormone levels may also be a contributing factor. Leg cramping usually goes away after the baby is born, although some cramping may linger for a while afterward until mom’s body gets back on track.