Your feet bear your entire weight as you walk and stand, which is why foot cramps are more common than muscle spasms in any other part of the body.
You could be sitting in front of the television, walking down the street, or even lying in bed when a foot cramp strikes. When it does the one thing racing through your mind as the pain shoots through you is ‘Make it stop. Now!’
Foot cramps can last mere minutes or you can endure the discomfort for days. It generally affects the inner arch of your foot through to your toes, most commonly the big toe.
What causes a foot cramp
According to Dr Vincent Marino, a practising podiatrist, the cause of a foot cramp is often more important than the discomfort and inconvenience you feel. By identifying the cause a suitable treatment can be found, especially if you are experiencing foot cramps on a regular basis.
Marino says there are several common reasons why foot cramps develop: muscle fatigue or stress, poor circulation, malnutrition, vitamin D deficiency, obesity, diabetes, flat feet, hormone imbalance, dehydration, thyroid gland malfunction, improper footwear, or a pinched nerve.
There are also some medications that can cause cramps, including — but not limited to — diuretics; those used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or asthma; and those used to lower cholesterol. It’s important you talk with your doctor if you feel your medications are causing cramps.
Treat a foot cramp fast
If you want to kick a foot cramp as quickly as possible, try the following:
- Pull the toes upward if the cramp is in the toes
- Pull the foot region in the opposite direction to where the cramp is located
- Place pressure directly on the cramp
If the cramp persists you should place a warm compress on your foot to not only increase the pressure but to boost circulation to the affected area. The compress will promote the supply of fresh oxygenated blood to the nerve.
When the cramp subsides place 2 pinches of salt into about 350mL of water and drink it. If you like banana, now is a good time to have a bite. These things first help balance your water-electrolyte levels and then provide your body with muscle cramp relieving potassium and magnesium.
What you can do to prevent foot cramps
Little or often, if you experience foot cramps there are some simple preventative measures.
Try warming up slowly before any exercise routine. Similarly, allow yourself time to ‘cool down’ after you have done any physical exercise activity.
Consider your water intake and if you feel our aren’t getting enough try to increase it.
Consume foods that are naturally high in potassium and calcium. These include bananas, milk, yoghurt, cheese, fish, fresh vegetables and dark chocolate.
Rub your feet regularly. If you’re kicking back on the couch why not give your feet a bit of a massage. You might also find that stretching your leg muscles could help in reducing the risk of cramp while keeping your muscles limber and strong.
Finally, be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Too tight, too lose, too high or too flat — not having well-fitted shoes can lead to a tightness in the muscles of your feet and this can lead to cramping.