When muscles in your foot start to spasm, it can lead to extremely painful foot cramps. And even though cramps typically don’t last very long, they can be excruciating.
Now, there are a lot of potential causes of this problem, but there are also ways to treat it.
In fact, here are some of the causes of foot cramps, as well as treatment options and ways to possibly prevent them from reoccurring.
Causes of Foot Cramps
Foot cramps are very frustrating because they can happen wherever you are and at any time of the day or night. While they are often exacerbated by exercise, there are a lot of different causes. These are some of the more common ones.
In order to work the way it should, the body has to have an ample supply of minerals. Cramps can often be traced to a lack of minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium.1
And if you don’t have enough vitamin D, it can also mean you don’t have enough calcium. Of course, calcium is a mineral that helps the muscles relax and contract normally. So, if your foot muscles don’t relax properly, you will more than likely experience cramps on a regular basis.
It’s true, certain drugs like diuretics can make you more prone to cramping. Also known as water pills, these drugs increase urination which can lead to a lack of calcium because they cause you to eliminate more than you really should.
If you’ve hurt your foot lately, your muscles may cramp in order to protect themselves from further injury. In this case, the body’s just trying to protect itself, but it’s painful nonetheless.
When you sweat, you lose minerals like potassium, magnesium, and calcium – and these minerals actually help to prevent cramping. Also, if you drink alcohol in excess or smoke too much, you’ll likely be prone to dehydration and cramping.
People who tend to overdo it when exercising are at a high risk of cramping. Dancers and athletes who put a lot of stress on their feet tend to cramp on a regular basis.
There are some instances where regular foot cramping can be a sign of a serious health problem like anemia, diabetes, or a thyroid condition.
Someone who has diabetes often also has a condition known as peripheral neuropathy, which damages the nerves in the feet and hands. And when a nerve doesn’t work correctly, that can increase the risk of cramps.
Dealing with Foot Cramps
So, what do you do if you experience cramps? Well, the bad news is that there are a lot of potential causes of foot cramps. But, the good news is that there are also a lot of ways that you can either reduce the discomfort caused by cramping or at least reduce the frequency of attacks.
One of the best things you can do when foot cramps strike is to immediately start gently massaging the area.
This will help relax your muscles and decrease pain. When you massage a cramp, you stimulate the circulation of not only your blood but also oxygen and other nutrients.
Applying heat can also improve blood flow and decrease pain. Use a heating pad or simply dip your foot into some warm (not hot) water for a little while and your symptoms should gradually dissipate.
Ice can also help with pain but remember not to directly apply it to the skin. Wrap it in a towel to avoid the risk of damaging your skin.
Another excellent short-term treatment for a foot cramp is to gently stretch the area. This is not only a great way to get rid of a cramp, but working in a regular stretching routine can also help lower the chances that you’ll get another one.
When to Get Medical Help
Thankfully, foot cramps are usually harmless. There are some rare instances, however, when they can indicate a serious medical condition.2 Talk to your doctor if you get cramps regularly – just to be on the safe side.
The best way to avoid foot cramps is to try and eat a balanced diet that ensures you get plenty of the vitamins and minerals you need so that your nerves and muscles function normally.3
Focus on getting more potassium and calcium into your system, as well as vitamins E, B6, and D. Low-fat milk and yogurt are good sources of calcium. Broccoli and spinach also give you a great deal of potassium. And bananas are also very high in potassium too.
Taking supplements will be the easiest way to do this, but talk to your doctor first to make sure they will be safe for you because supplements can sometimes interact with medications.
While getting exercise is also a good way to help you avoid foot cramps, be sure to do so safely.
For instance, never start a workout session without going through a stretching routine first. And if you’re just beginning an exercise regimen, start gradually so that you lower the risk of suffering an injury.
Strengthening exercises can go a long way toward preventing foot cramps. These include rising up and down on your toes to strengthen your calf muscles. Flexing your feet and curling your toes for about 10-15 minutes a day can make your feet stronger, as can picking up small objects with your toes, such as marbles. If you live near a beach, walk on the sand barefoot regularly. This is another great way to strengthen your toe and foot muscles.
The shoes you wear can also help lessen the risk of developing foot cramps. If you wear regularly wear high heels all day, for example, they can compress your toes and increase the chances of a painful cramp. If you work out a great deal and wear the wrong shoes, that can also lead to a problem. Try to wear shoes with a wide enough toe box so that you can wiggle your toes easily.
In the end…
Cramping happens to everyone, but hopefully, the tips above will help decrease the frequency with which they happen to you.