Have you been awakened in the night by excruciating pain in the foot or calf? Have you felt severe calf pain after a strenuous run? If so, then you have experienced muscle cramps.
A muscle cramp, also called a charley horse, is a sudden involuntary contraction of one or more muscles. Although incredibly painful, these cramps are generally harmless.
Foot Cramp Causes
A common cause of sudden muscle contractions is overuse as in extended periods of exercise or work – especially in hot weather. Dehydration can cause muscle cramps as can holding your foot or leg in one position for a long period of time. However, in many cases the exact cause remains unknown.
Although usually harmless, muscle cramps may be a sign of another medical condition including:
- Nerve compression. Lumbar stenosis, or compressed spinal nerves, can produce leg cramps that get worse as you walk. Walking while slightly bending forward may ease the cramp.
- Inadequate blood supply. If your arteries have narrowed, the blood supply to your lower extremities may be affected. This can cause foot and leg cramps during exercise. Resting usually relieves the muscle contraction.
- Depletion of minerals. Inadequate potassium, magnesium or calcium can cause cramping. High blood pressure medication with a diuretic can also drain these necessary minerals.
Remedies for Foot and Leg Cramps
Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM recommends self-treating your cramp as soon as it happens:
- Stretch the muscle and rub it gently so it can relax.
- In case of a calf cramp, stand up on that leg with knee slightly bent. You can also sit on the floor with leg extended and pull your toes toward your head.
- Use a heating pad or warm towel to ease tight muscles. The water from a warm bath or shower stream directly on the muscle will help.
- Try an ice massage on the muscle to relieve pain.
Prevention is Key to Foot Cramp Relief
It’s important to stay hydrated to prevent cramps as well as for overall health. Fluids help muscles relax and contract and keep muscle cells hydrated. Drink lots of liquids especially water every day. Replenish fluids during and after exercise particularly on hot days.
Always stretch after exercising. To avoid nighttime cramps, stretch gently before bedtime.
Talk to your doctor about replenishing minerals that are depleted because of diuretic medications. One simple way to replace potassium is to eat a banana every day.
Contact Us for Continued Painful Foot Cramps
Although cramps don’t often need medical care, be sure to contact us at our Chicago office if you experience:
- Severe pain that doesn’t go away
- Muscle weakness
- Swelling or redness
- Cramps that aren’t improved by self-care
- Cramps with no obvious cause
Call our office at 773-561-8100 for an evaluation appointment with board-certified podiatrist Dr. Alexopoulos, and feel free to browse our website. Severe foot cramps may point to an underlying condition that we will address quickly for an end to your pain and discomfort.