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If you suffer from foot cramps, you know how painful they can be. Foot cramps are caused by muscle spasms, and can be brought on by dehydration, overuse, or sitting in one position for too long. There are several things you can do to get rid of foot cramps and prevent them from happening in the first place. Let’s get into the details:
What Are Foot Cramps?
Foot cramps are common among athletes. In fact, about 80% of people experience foot cramps at some point in their lives. Most often, they happen while exercising or walking around barefoot. A foot cramp occurs when your muscle becomes too tense and it squeezes against something like your big toe. This causes pain and makes it difficult to move your foot.
If you think you might be experiencing a foot cramp, try one of these things:
• Stretch your leg out straight and pull up on your toes. You’ll feel the tension in your calf and foot muscles. If you find yourself tightening those muscles again, stop what you’re doing and relax them.
• Walk on your tiptoes. Try to walk on the balls of your feet instead of heels.
• Use a foam roller. Foam rollers work great for stretching out tight muscles. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
• Do some yoga. Yoga stretches tend to help loosen up tight muscles.
• Take a break. Don’t exercise when you’re tired. Instead, take a short nap or go for a brisk walk.
Causes Of Foot Cramps
Foot cramps are often caused by dehydration, especially during hot weather. They can also occur because of poor circulation, tight shoes, and nerve problems. If you suffer from foot cramps, try drinking plenty of water, wearing comfortable shoes, and stretching out your feet.
If you spend most of your day sitting, chances are you’re developing painful foot cramps. This is because prolonged sitting causes blood flow to shift away from your legs toward your heart and lungs, according to research published in the journal Physical Therapy. This phenomenon—known as orthostatic intolerance—can lead to leg pain, numbness, tingling, and even muscle weakness.
The researchers found that people who sit for longer periods of time experience greater changes in blood pressure and pulse compared to those who stand up frequently throughout the day. They also had lower levels of nitric oxide, a chemical messenger that helps regulate blood vessel function. Nitric oxide plays a role in maintaining healthy blood vessels, including those in your feet.
To avoid cramping, try standing up every hour or so to stretch out your muscles. And don’t forget about proper footwear. If you’re wearing shoes that aren’t comfortable, it could make matters worse. “When we sat for extended periods of time, our feet became compressed,” says Dr. Jodi Flaws, DPM, a podiatrist based in New York City. She recommends switching into a pair of supportive sneakers once you start feeling tired.
Overexertion of the muscles
Cramps are painful muscle contractions caused by lack of blood supply. They usually happen during exercise, but can also occur while sitting still.
Overexerting your arms, legs, or core muscles can cause them to fatigue quickly and lead to cramping.
If you’re working out too frequently, your muscles will feel tired and prone to cramping because they aren’t getting enough oxygenated blood. You can prevent this by taking rest days every week.
Improper footwear or hard surfaces
Wearing illfitting shoes or working on hard surfaces such as concrete floors, asphalt, tile, or stone can reduce the amount of blood flowing to the lower extremities. This leads to leg and foot swelling, muscle cramps, numbness, and tingling. Improper shoe fit can lead to blisters, calluses and corns.
Proper shoe fit should be checked frequently. If you notice problems, consult a podiatrist. They can help determine what type of shoe fits best for you.
Muscle cramps are common among athletes because dehydration causes electrolytes to shift out of balance. This imbalance leads to muscle contraction, pain, and even paralysis. To avoid cramping, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Vitamin deficiencies can affect brain function, leading to nerve damage. This includes numbness, tingles, weakness, difficulty walking and muscle twitches. Some people experience seizures.
Magnesium and potassium deficiencies may lead to leg and foot cramps. These are often caused by dehydration. If you’re thirsty, drink water.
Talk to your doctor about taking nutritional supplements.
Excessive alcohol use
Alcoholic neuropathy occurs when nerves are injured because of drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time. This type of nerve damage can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness in hands and feet. People who drink heavily often develop deficiencies in vitamins such as B12, folate (folic acid), and thiamine (vitamin B1). These nutrient deficiencies can affect the nervous system and lead to symptoms like muscle twitching, difficulty walking, and loss of coordination.
Cramps during pregnancy are common, but it doesn’t mean you’re having a miscarriage.
Elevating your legs while sleeping is one way to relieve some cramping. And taking prenatal vitamins will help prevent vitamin deficiency.
Health issues and medications
Foot cramps are very painful and uncomfortable. They can occur in both feet, although most people experience them in one foot. Foot cramps usually happen while you’re asleep, but they can also happen while you’re awake. Sometimes, they come without warning, but sometimes they start gradually and become worse over time.
The pain associated with foot cramps can range from mild to severe, depending on what’s causing it. If you feel like you’ve had a sudden attack of foot cramps, seek medical attention immediately. You could have a serious health issue that needs immediate treatment.
Common Causes of Nighttime Foot Cramps
There are many possible causes of nighttime foot cramps. Here are some of the most common ones.
If you have arthritis, poor circulation, diabetes, or another type of joint disease, your bones might not be working properly. This can lead to swelling and inflammation, which can make your joints hurt. Your doctor can help determine whether there is something wrong with your bones.
Foot Cramp Treatment
A foot cramp occurs when you feel pain in one or both feet, usually while standing or walking. Your muscles contract and tighten around your toes, causing pain. If it lasts longer than five minutes, see a doctor. You can treat yourself at home with ice packs, heat pads, stretching exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen.
A tight pair of shoes could cause discomfort and even injuries. A study published in the Journal of Foot & Ankle Research found that people who wear too-tight shoes are more likely to develop plantar fasciitis, heel spur syndrome, Achilles tendinosis, shin splints and stress fractures.
The researchers looked at data from more than 3,100 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2006. They found that those who wore shoes with heels greater than 2 inches had a 30 percent increased risk of developing one of these conditions compared with those whose feet were supported by flat shoes. Those who wore shoes with heels less than 2 inches had no increased risk.
The findings suggest that choosing shoes that fit well can help prevent overuse injuries. “We know that wearing shoes that don’t fit correctly leads to problems,” says Dr. David Lipsky, coauthor of the study and associate professor of orthopedics at New York University School of Medicine. “But we didn’t realize how big of a problem it really is.”
Exercise is great for you — it helps keep your body healthy and strong. But overexerting yourself can do more harm than good. If you exercise too much, you might end up with an overuse syndrome like tendinitis.
Low levels of nutrients
Muscle cramping is caused by a lack of certain electrolytes in the body, mainly potassium and sodium. These minerals help control muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve function, heart rhythm and blood pressure. Low levels of electrolytes can cause weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and confusion. This can lead to dehydration, which can further contribute to muscle cramps.
Supplementing with potassium and magnesium helps prevent muscle cramps because it increases the amount of ions in the muscles. In addition, magnesium helps maintain normal muscle activity and relaxes muscles. Magnesium also reduces calcium loss in urine, which contributes to muscle cramps. Calcium supplements, however, increase the risk of kidney stones.
The best way to replenish electrolyte levels is to drink plenty of water. Electrolytes are lost during sweating and exercise, so athletes often supplement with sports drinks containing both carbohydrates and electrolytes. However, drinking too much fluid can dilute the concentration of electrolytes in the bloodstream, causing hyponatremia (low blood sodium). To avoid this, athletes should consume fluids slowly over several hours rather than gulping down large amounts of liquid at one time.
The nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, along with nerves that carry signals throughout the body. These include peripheral nerves, cranial nerves, sympathetic nerves, parasympathetic nerves, sensory nerves, motor nerves, and enteric nerves. Nerves consist of axons surrounded by myelin sheaths. Axons conduct electrical impulses and transmit information to muscles, glands, organs, and other parts of the body. Myelin protects the axon and increases its speed of conduction.
Peripheral neuropathy occurs when there is damage to the peripheral nervous system. This includes damage to the nerves outside of the central nervous system. Damage to the peripheral nervous system can occur due to trauma, infection, autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, toxins, radiation exposure, genetic conditions, or medications.
There are several types of peripheral neuropathies. They are classified based on the location of the damage. For example, diabetic polyneuropathy affects both small and large fibers, while traumatic neuropathy affects only large fibers.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary depending on the type of damage. Symptoms may include pain, burning, itching, tingling, numbness, weakness, muscle atrophy, loss of coordination, and difficulty walking. Some people experience symptoms in one area of the body, whereas others experience symptoms in multiple areas.
Treatment depends on the cause of the damage. Treatment options include medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nutritional counseling, and injections. Surgery may sometimes be required.
Your doctor might recommend changing medications if he/she suspects that the current medication(s) are causing foot pain. A different type of medication might help alleviate the symptoms without any negative consequences. Your doctor should check all prescription drugs you take before making any changes.
Cramping is often caused by dehydrating yourself. If you are crampy, it could mean you aren’t drinking enough water. Here are some ways to make sure you’re getting enough liquid.