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What Are Thigh Cramps?

Staying hydrated helps prevent cramps.
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  • Written By: M. DePietro
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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Thigh cramps are painful contractions of the muscle which can occur in the front, inner or outer thigh. The contractions are involuntary and severity of the pain may vary. Cramps in the thighs are very common and can affect anyone regardless of their level of physical fitness.

There are several factors which can lead to thigh cramps. Dehydration and heavy exercise leading to muscle fatigue are a few of the main causes. Pregnancy may also cause cramps in the thigh muscle due to the extra weight which is carried around. Other causes include a deficiency in minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.

Thigh cramps include pain and the muscle may become hard. The duration of the pain can vary, but often thigh cramps only last a few minutes. Cramps in the thigh usually resolve on their own and most people don’t require medical treatment, but occasionally there may be a need to see your doctor. For instance, if the pain is severe and is accompanied by swelling or tenderness in the thigh, consult with your doctor.

Your doctor may recommend blood work to rule out a mineral deficiency. A complete physical along with a medical history will likely be performed. An x-ray or an MRI may be ordered to determine if there are abnormalities in the bones or muscle causing pain.

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When you get a thigh cramp, try stretching the front of the thigh. Although it may be painful to stretch at first, it will help relieve the cramp. Gently messaging the thigh for a few minutes may also help stop the cramp. Use a warm compress or take a warm bath, which may help relax the muscle and relieve the pain.

Thigh cramps may be preventable in many cases. Drink enough fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration. This is especially important during exercise and if you’re spending time outside in warm weather. Avoid standing in one spot for too long. If you have a job where you stand in one spot for long periods of time, take several breaks to walk around.

Stretching the thighs before and after exercise may also help reduce cramps. Stretch the front of the thigh by pulling the heel of the foot up to buttocks. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. An additional way to prevent cramps in the thighs is to take calcium or magnesium supplements if you have a deficiency.

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Discuss this Article

anon282871
Post 9

If I have certain brands of chocolate I get terrible inner thigh cramps. It's a horrendous pain and I feel like passing out with it sometimes. a simple answer is avoid chocolate late at night. But I had chocolate sauce on my dessert and didn't think about it, but I usually get reminded by the cramps. Water is good and of course contains potassium.

letshearit
Post 8

I used to get terrible thigh cramps at night and it made it very hard to sleep. If I did manage to fall asleep I would usually jerk awake in pain. You can probably imagine how awful I felt in the morning after such a rude awakening during the night.

Like others have mentioned, increasing your potassium intake can really help with the severity of your cramping, and even eliminate it all together.

For myself I added lots of cabbage and broccoli, as well as things like beans and potatoes, which are all surprisingly high in potassium. It took me a few weeks before I noticed the difference but the cramps did eventually go away.

mabeT
Post 7

Thigh cramps are some of the worst, but I find it best to walk them out whenever they do happen. Sometimes you might get one just sitting still (I actually find that I usually do get them when I’m not doing anything at all.)

It might hurt quite a bit to begin with, but there’s just something about that little bit of movement that helps to relieve the tension in the muscles.

If that doesn’t work, try standing on the leg without the cramp. Hold on to a counter or something to help keep your balance and simply move the leg back and forth from the knee; almost like you’re kicking something but without that kind of power.

And then, sometimes, you just have to let the things pass in their own time.

dimpley
Post 6

Call me crazy, but I think that another thing that can certainly help with thigh cramp relief is to take in more potassium. My doctor suggested eating a banana to get the potassium levels in the body back up to a good level naturally.

I was having incredibly bad cramps in the thigh and calf areas; it got bad enough that I went to the doctor to get checked out. He found that I was dehydrated slightly, but that my potassium had totally bottomed out.

Now, a banana a day keeps me cramp free!

geekish
Post 5

@anamur - Vitamin D plays a role in reducing inflammation in our bodies, so that might have something to do with the cramps.

If you do go the vitamin D route - I know a great way to save you money - skip the supplements and stand outside in the sun! Our bodies get vitamin D via sunshine. To get enough vitamin D, all you need to do is sit outside for 10-15 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week. Good luck with your cramps!

Speechie
Post 4

@burcinc - I had no idea pregnancy could be what causes thigh cramps via the extra weight or as you mentioned, because your baby was shifting.

The charlie horses I've had happened while I was playing soccer. I massaged the area both during the cramp and then before playing soccer when they began occurring with frequency. Then I added potassium to my diet, per suggestion of my coach. With the massaging of the area and the added potassium my cramps stopped!

fify
Post 3

People generally first think of dehydration when cramps start to happen. I'm sure that is a cause for many people, but I personally think that too much physical activity and poor nutrition are the bigger culprits.

I think many athletes and people who have to be physically active for their job, like firefighters, for example tend to push themselves beyond their physical limits in terms of exercise and activity. And that also requires more food so that the body can replace what is lost and rebuild muscle. I have some friends who do body building and all they do is eat all day because that's what their body requires.

I think we should make sure we are getting enough water, but you might have to ease up on the activity a little bit and eat more to get your body back into balance. I think cramps automatically resolve themselves after that.

burcinc
Post 2

@anamur-- Not sure about vitamin D, magnesium is usually what is suggested, especially for cramps during pregnancy.

I had both calf cramps and thigh cramps during my pregnancy. The thigh cramps happened closer to birth though and I think they were due shifts in baby's position to get ready for birth.

Yours are probably thigh muscle cramps caused by physical activity, since you said you just started yoga. I would recommend drinking more water like the article said. I heard that electrolytes help too. You could pick up some of those bottled waters with electrolytes and vitamins and have some before and after exercise.

serenesurface
Post 1

I used to get leg cramps a lot growing up and it happened usually in the night while I was sleeping. I would wake up with an intense pain that lasted for a minute or two. My mom used to have me take vitamin D to help with the cramps.

I don't have leg cramps anymore but my thigh has been cramping a lot the last couple of weeks. I have started doing yoga, which might be the cause. I'm just wondering if vitamin D supplements would be beneficial to take again? I don't know why my mom would have me take them but they seemed to work. What is the explanation behind vitamin D and cramps?

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