Painful Leg & Foot Cramps: What Is Causing Them?!
If you’ve ever been jolted awake in the middle of the night due to a stabbing pain in your calf or foot, you know that leg or foot cramps, otherwise known as a “Charley Horse,” can cause sudden, severe pain and stiffness that is nearly debilitating.
There are many reasons why the foot and calf muscles might involuntarily cramp or stiffen, which include:
- Not Enough Water: Cramps could be a result of not drinking enough water. Dehydration can cause the muscle to contract and result in a cramp. Best recommendation for water intake is eight glasses of 8 oz. of water per day.
- Nutritional Imbalances: Electrolyte imbalances (sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium) could be the culprit. But be sure to visit your doctor first, because taking excess supplements, especially when you are unsure which electrolyte you are lacking, can be harmful. Instead, be sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet filled with various colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Medication Side Effects: Medications like statins and furosemide can lead to muscle cramps. If the cramp onset coincides with taking new medication, your new medication could be the culprit. Contact your physician to let them know about the cramping issue right away.
- Lack of Stretching: Simply stretching for a few minutes every day will help your muscles stay in tip top shape. Muscles that are not regularly stretched will shorten over time, so when a muscle is eventually lengthened, maybe by exercise or running, a severe foot cramp might be the result.
- Muscle Fatigue: Overexertion of your muscles will lead to fatigue and cramping. If you are prone to cramps, be sure to take frequent breaks when performing any physical activities that require vigorous movement.
- Your Shoes: Many people don’t realize this, but your footwear choice could be responsible for foot and leg cramps. When changing shoes from flats to heels, you may experience cramping in the calf muscle as they are forced to shorten and then flex simultaneously.
- Circulation Issues: if you have noticed that the cramping is becoming frequent when you walk, it may be a result of circulation problems. You should immediately make an appointment with your podiatrist.
What Should I Do If I Experience Foot or Leg Cramps?
If you are experiencing a Charley Horse and are lying down in bed, stand up and apply weight to the affected leg/foot, flexing and pointing the toes to loosen the locked up muscle. Heating pads or soaking it in a warm bath of Epsom salt can also help to improve circulation and bring relief to the tension. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen) also can help alleviate pain.
To help prevent the onset of future painful cramping, stay hydrated, limit alcohol consumption, stretch daily and maintain a healthy diet.
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