Why Am I Getting Foot Cramps?

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They’re common, painful and seem to come out of nowhere: the foot and leg cramps commonly known as “charley horses” (the term was coined in the early days of baseball by Joe Quest, a second baseman with the old Chicago White Stockings—Quest teased that a limping teammate looked like an old horse he knew named Charley).  Whatever you call them, the sudden cramps come on when your muscles get stiff and cannot relax, and they happen more as people age.

Here are seven common causes of cramping:

  1. Lack of Hydration: Be certain that you’re drinking enough water throughout the day.  And remember, coffee doesn’t count.
  2. Nutrition: You need a good balance of electrolytes—calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium—and you should strive to get these through the foods you eat, rather than through supplements. Leafy greens and fruits (particularly bananas) will keep your electrolytes in balance naturally.
  3. Medications: Cramps can be a side effect of the medicines you take. Some, such as statins and furosemide (LASIX®) are often a cause. If you experience cramps right after taking a new medication, see your doctor.
  4. Inadequate Stretching: Exercise is always recommended but be certain that you properly stretch before you start your workouts. Stand with your palms against the wall with your arms outstretched, step back with one leg, then lean forward on the other leg while you push against the wall.  Reverse and repeat.  Another good option: sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you, toes pointed up, wrap a strap or towel around the toes of one foot and pull the straightened leg upward.  Repeat with the other leg.
  5. Overexertion: Sometimes a hard workout causing muscle fatigue can cause cramps. Be sure to pace yourself as you exercise.
  6. Poor Circulation: If cramping increases when you’re taking a walk, you could have a problem with your circulation. If cramps get worse while you walk, see your doctor.
  7. Wrong Shoes: Sometimes those high fashion shoes can be the cause of cramps, especially if you’ve changed from flats to heels.

If a cramp happens when you’re in bed or lying down, try to stand up and put some weight on your affected foot or leg. Sometimes that’s all you need to stop a cramp. If that’s not enough, use warmth, such as a heating pad or even a warm washcloth to increase blood circulation to the affected area and relax the muscle. Warm Epsom salt soaking can also help. If the pain doesn’t go away quickly, try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen.  If cramps become more frequent or won’t go away with simple treatments see your doctor.

To make an appointment with one of our podiatrists regarding your foot cramps, call 336-375-6990 or visit triadfoot.com to request an appointment.

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