Muscle cramps can strike at any time and are caused by a variety of things, including working out in hot weather and certain medications. They can affect any muscle but are most common in your calves and in the big muscles in the front and back of your thighs. The sudden, involuntary contractions, often called charley horses, can be incapacitating and painful, but they generally aren’t cause for alarm. You can stretch out your cramp and be up and moving in a matter of minutes.
Front Thigh Muscle (Quadriceps)
Stop whatever activity you are doing as soon as the cramp starts. Massage the muscle to relax it and increase circulation.
Stand near a support such as a chair or wall and hold onto it. Raise the foot of the cramping thigh up behind you and grasp the top of your foot. Keep your knee pointed straight down at the floor.
Pull gently on your foot, urging it up and toward your bottom, for 10 to 20 seconds while breathing slowly and deeply. Don't pull sharply or pull your foot so far that the stretch is painful. Concentrate on relaxing the front of your thigh to gently loosen the cramp.
Walk around for a minute or two once your thigh muscle relaxes to make sure the cramp is gone.
Rear Thigh Muscle (Hamstring)
Stop what you’re doing as soon as you feel a cramp. Stretch the foot of your cramping leg in front of you with your heel on the floor and your foot flexed so your toes are pulling back toward you.
Lean back slightly as you tilt your hips forward and bend your back leg, almost as though you are going to sit down. All of your weight should be on your back leg.
Keep the upper part of your body straight and tall. Breathe deeply and slowly, concentrating on loosening the back of your thigh.
Hold this pose, stretching gently and breathing, for 10 to 20 seconds. Switch sides and stretch the other thigh to help keep it loose.
- Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes if stretching doesn’t work. Follow the ice pack with 20 minutes of rest and then 20 minutes of a heated pack or a hot shower or bath.
- Do not use sharp, quick movements or a bouncing motion to stretch out a muscle cramp.
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.