Sudden cramping in your feet or legs is painful and disconcerting. It’s caused by the leg muscle contracting suddenly and sharply. This may last a few seconds or several minutes. Your toes may also curl a little during the contraction, or you may notice your calf muscle bulging. At best, it’s uncomfortable and at worst it’s extremely painful.
What Causes Leg Cramps?
There are several causes, so here are some of the most common ones.
Lack of Exercise
We all know this leads to a multitude of problems. In this case, a sedentary lifestyle causes a number of issues. Leg muscles become weak which can lead to cramping. In addition, too much sitting forces your limbs into an unnatural position for long periods (humans are designed to move about, not sit down all day). This compresses nerves and impedes blood flow – both of which will also encourage cramping.
Muscle Fatigue Due to Overexertion
Don’t overcompensate by over-exercising, as this can have the same effect. If you regularly push yourself beyond your limits or forget to warm up/cool down properly, muscles become fatigued. This also leads to lactic acid build up, and cramps are sure to follow.
Muscle cramps are a side effect of several medical conditions.
Here are a few examples.
Parkinson’s Disease: Constant muscle spasms are the most obvious symptom – indeed, the onset of cramping in the feet and toes is an early sign of the condition.
Kidney Disease: Problems with kidney function create electrolyte imbalances, which lead to muscle cramps.
Diabetes: This causes damage to blood vessels, which impedes circulation and can also damage nerves – both of which cause muscle contractions.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Cramps, swelling, warm, tender skin and discolouration can indicate DVT. This means a blood clot, so please see a doctor immediately.
Common Medications: Medicines for contraception, cholesterol and asthma can all cause muscle spasms.
Poor Diet and Dehydration
Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are all vital for healthy muscle function. Low levels of these minerals will affect muscle function and spasms may well follow.
Lack of water also depletes these minerals and causes a drop in blood volumes (the amount of blood circulating in your body). Again, the muscles will suffer and struggle to function properly.
Posture, Gait and Footwear
Poorly fitting shoes cause friction and discomfort which affects your balance and the way you move. This forces muscles and ligaments to work harder to compensate for unnatural posture and gait, which will weaken them accordingly.
How to Treat Muscle Cramps
Much of the solution is a matter of common sense.
Regular exercise and a healthy, varied diet go a long way to keeping everything in good working order and ensuring you get plenty of essential nutrients. Take care to build up gently to avoid muscle fatigue.
Even if age or poor health make exercise tricky, regular gentle walking still helps tremendously – even if you just do this around the home. It’s infinitely better than sitting on the sofa all day. Don’t forget to keep an eye on fluid intake – aim for 8 to 10 glasses of water a day to avoid dehydration.
Stretching and massage improve muscle elasticity and ease tension. This also boosts circulation and keeps lactic acid build-up at bay.
The Right Shoes and Better Posture
Comfortable, supportive footwear helps your feet to function correctly – the first step in improving your posture.
Talk to a Podiatrist
Don’t struggle alone. For reassuring advice on footwear, diet, exercise and posture talk to an experienced podiatrist at Feet By Pody.