Release A Muscle Cramp Instantly By Contracting The Opposite Muscle

Ever have a calf cramp wake you up in the middle of the night, or knock you down in the middle of a workout? There’s a way to send that cramping, spasming muscle a signal to relax: contract the opposite muscle.

For your calf muscle, the opposite is the tibialis anterior, on the front of your shin. Activate this muscle by using it to pull your toes upward, off the floor. You can even have a friend push down on your instep while you push upward against their hand. Sometimes the cramp will release instantly; sometimes I find it takes a good 30 seconds.

Whatever you do, though, don’t stretch! In our calf cramp example, you’ll sometimes see people grab their toes and pull. But that doesn’t help, and can even cause damage to the cramping muscle. The point is to use the shin muscle to do that movement.

This works because opposing pairs of muscles are able to inhibit each other from firing, an effect called reciprocal inhibition. It’s essentially a signal for that opposite muscle to relax. The trick works on any muscle in your body:

  • If the cramp is in your hamstring, activate your quadriceps by straightening your leg.
  • If the cramp is in your quad, activate your hamstrings (bend your knee).
  • If the bottom of your foot is cramping, lift your foot and spread out your toes.

Check out the full post over at Tribook for more information on how to effectively get rid of those cramps.

Reciprocal inhibition to relieve muscle cramps []


  • Some video examples of what you are saying might help.

    I don’t understand the difference with what you are saying to do with the calf example and what you are saying not to do.

    I get calf cramps, to get rid of them I stretch my leg out (or have someone do it for me if the cramp is bad enough that I can’t straighten my leg myself) and hold onto my toes as usually the pain prevents me from lifting my toes without my using my hand to do it. This seems to be both what you say to do and what you say not to do.

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