Cause and Treatment for Calf Cramps

Muscle cramps can occur from overexertion, dehydration, an electrolyte imbalance, and inactivity. During a muscle cramp, the muscle shortens causing sudden severe pain. Muscle cramps can develop from pointing your toes in bed.  Also, it is common in women who are pregnant.

If you experience a muscle cramp in your calf, try to walk it off.  If that does not work, massage and apply heat to your calf.  Then, stretch the calf to loosen the muscle and prevent further muscle cramping.

Calf Stretches

  1. Runner’s Stretch– Stand with your hands against the wall, with your feet staggered, lunge towards the wall. The calf you are trying to stretch should be in the back.
  2. Calf Stretch with Strap– sit with your legs in front of you and pull your toes toward your knee.
  3. Calf Stretch on Step– Stand on a step, lower the heel of the cramping leg to get a stretch.  Hold onto a railing for support.

If you are prone to calf cramps, you should stretch regularly.

Runner's Stretch
Calf Stretch with StrapCalf Stretch on Step

How to Reduce Inflammation by Changing your Diet

Swelling and inflammation are problems that can lead to the pain you are feeling.  To help decrease inflammation, and therefore pain, it is important to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet. The Food Guide Pyramid can help you to make wise choices by including a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and eating sugar, sodium and fat in moderation. It is also important to choose more fresh foods and limit processed foods, as these have been known to lead to inflammation.


  • Choose whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole grain cereals.
  • Try to avoid processed or refined grains- meaning that they are white and the good parts (fiber and B-vitamins) have been removed.

Vegetables and Fruits:

  • All are good sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Make sure to get a variety of color to get all of the nutrients and aim for at least 5 servings daily.
  • Vitamin C
  • An antioxidant that fights inflammation
  • Supports healthy connective tissue
  • Involved in collagen formation
  • Sources: broccoli, melons, oranges, mango, sweet potato, spinach, collard and mustard greens, strawberries, red bell peppers, kiwi, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes
    • Magnesium
    • Works with calcium to promote bone formation
    • Sources: seeds, nuts, legumes, unrefined cereal grains, dark green leafy vegetables
      • Antioxidants and Phytochemicals
      • Have anti-inflammatory properties
      • Choose berries and other brightly colored fruit and vegetables
        • Boron
        • Some studies have shown this trace mineral to help with osteoarthritis
        • Helps cartilage and bone to absorb calcium
        • Sources: apples, legumes, leafy vegetables, carrots, pears, grapes, grains, some drinking water

Fats and Oils:

  • Total fat 25-35% of calories
  • Choose healthy fats from unsaturated sources
    • Olive oil has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation – can be used in place of vegetable oil in baking
    • Focus on Omega-3 fatty acids
      • Powerful anti-inflammatory agent
      • Sources: cold water oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, herring, sardines, lake trout), walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, soybeans
      • Speak to your doctor if you are interested in adding fish oil for flax supplements
      • Limit saturated fat from animal sources to less than 7% of total calories
        • An 1800 calorie meal plan should have <60 grams total fat and <14 grams saturated fat


  • Choose low fat or fat free dairy products daily
    • Low fat calcium products have been found to promote wt loss
    • Calcium
      • Contributes to positive bone growth and maintenance of bone density
      • Sources: low fat/fat free milk, yogurt and cheese, fortified soy milk and orange juice, dark green leafy vegetables, canned sardines and salmon with bones
      • Vitamin D
        • Low levels of vitamin D can lead to more rapid progression of osteoarthritis
        • Sources: fish-liver oil, butter and cream, egg yolks, liver, fortified milk and dairy products, fortified cereals


  • Needed to build healthy tissues
  • Choose lean poultry, fish and seafood, nuts, legumes and seeds
  • Fatty red meat may trigger inflammation- choose lean cuts and limit
  • Soy proteins
    • May held reduce pain and inflammation
    • Sources: soybeans, soy nuts, tofu and soy milk
    • Try to limit processed soy foods
Foog Guide Pyramid
Food Guide Pyramid

Written by Julie Katz, Registered Dietitian- Baltimore, MD


Sitting Posture at the Computer

How to Maintain Good Sitting Posture at the Computer

We spend a lot of time sitting in front of the computer. Sitting at the computer improperly can lead to injuries at the neck, back, wrist and elbow.  Below are guidelines to help maintain good posture while sitting in front of your computer.

  • To support the low back while sitting, make sure to sit with your back touching the back of the chair and use a lumbar support.  The lumbar support should fill the space in the curve of the low back to avoid pressure on your spine and reduce muscle fatigue in the low back muscles.
  • Your feet should sit comfortably, flat on the floor.  If they don’t reach the floor, use a footstool. Your hips should be slightly higher that your knees.
  • Do not twist or reach while you are using the computer and make sure your work is in front of your body.  Your wrists should be straight and avoid using a wrist rest.  A wrist rest tends to put a strain on the neck and shoulders because it elevates the height of your wrist from the table surface.  Your keyboard should be at elbow level and you want your elbows and upper arms resting close to your body.
  • The computer monitor should be an arms length distance away from you (about 20 inches). Your eyes should be in line with a point on the screen 2-3 inches below the top of the monitor.  Research suggests that having the center of the screen 17.5 degrees below eye level is optimal for neck alignment and for reducing glare.
  • Try to take breaks from sitting because being in one position for too long can stiffen muscles.  A couple of exercises you can do during the day to prevent neck stiffness includes: rolling the shoulders forward and backward, gently rotating your head, and side bending your head to stretch the neck muscles.


Harbor Physical Therapy is offering FREE Wellness Sessions at the Merritt Athletic Club Fort Avenue on November 15th from 7AM-9AM and 2PM-6PM.  Please contact Harbor Physical Therapy 443-524-0442 or the Merritt Athletic Club 410-576-2004 with any questions. 

Merritt Athletic Club Fort Avenue
921 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Physical Therapist vs. Chiropractor

Many patients are curious about the difference between these two health practitioners.

Chiropractors specialize in manipulating bone structure (such as the spine) to improve the function of the joints and or nervous system.  They are very well known for manipulating the spine to help decrease low back pain.  A lot of patients frequent a chiropractor’s office several times a year for many years to manage their ailments.  A chiropractor has an aggressive approach to treatment.

Physical Therapists specialize in treating injury or dysfunction with exercises, manual techniques, neuromuscular re-education, and postural re-education to improve function throughout life.  A patient will attend a physical therapist 2-3 times a week for on average 6 weeks to improve function/decrease pain and gain education on how to further these gains with independent exercise.  Physical Therapy is a conservative treatment option and one which should be used in the first line of defense against injury.

In my professional opinion, it is in the patient’s best interest to understand the difference between these two disciplines before choosing the treatment option that is appropriate.  With acute injury, one should first go to a physical therapist.  If the patient has tried physical therapy and finds they have not met their goals, then they should look into seeking a chiropractors services.  A chiropractor offers more of an aggressive approach to treatment by using manipulations so a lot of times this is inappropriate for an acute injury, such as a car accident, ankle sprain, sport injury, etc.

If you are unsure what type of discipline best suits you, feel free to contact Harbor Physical Therapy with questions.