Foot cramps are caused by painful, intense, involuntary spasms or a “knotted” feeling in the muscles. They are usually short-lived or may continue on and off for a few days causing some soreness. Foot cramps most commonly occur in the arch of the foot and can also move to the toes and calf muscle as well. Although cramps are harmless in most cases, they can be caused by fatigue, reduced levels of certain chemicals, hormonal factors or illness.
Cramping can occur any time day or night and can often be associated with exercise. Anyone can get them but they become more common over the age of 75. Here we will look at the symptoms and causes of calf, toe and foot cramps.
The body needs the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Foot cramps are commonly caused by imbalances in:
Calcium: helps transmit nerve impulses to the muscle cells allowing the muscles to contract and relax normally. Excessive caffeine intake, lack of vitamin D and high sodium levels can reduce calcium levels
Vitamin E: promotes good circulation and is needed for the production of red blood cells. Lack of vitamin E can therefore reduce oxygen levels to the muscles resulting in foot cramps
Potassium: low potassium levels are known as hypokalemia and can be caused by excessive vomiting or sweating, kidney problems and medication.
Vitamin D: helps absorb calcium and magnesium. Getting at least fifteen minutes of sunlight a day helps prevent a lack of vitamin D.
Magnesium: lack of magnesium locks calcium and sodium ions into the muscle, preventing it from relaxing.
Vitamin B6: is vital for health function of nerves and muscles.
More general health causes of foot, toe and leg cramps can be:
1) Nerve Damage
Nerves transmit the signals from your brain to the muscles, telling them when to contract and relax. If a nerve is damaged or pinched, signals cannot pass through properly correctly resulting in foot cramps.
Sweating reduces the levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake also increase the risk of dehydration.
If you have been over-working your muscles, e.g. too intensely or for too long, or your body is generally fatigued, you are more likely to develop cramp. Athletes and dancers who place more stress on their feet are more prone to foot and toe cramps, runners are more prone to calf muscle cramps.
4) Lack of Exercise
Being out of shape and non active can result in muscle weakness and even obesity, both of which increase the risk of muscle cramping from lack of use. It’s also more likely to cause muscle pulls when you suddenly do something strenuous.
5) Health Issues
Cramps may be a sign of an underlying health condition. Conditions such as Diabetes, thyroid problems, anemia, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s all increase the risk of foot cramps.
Generally speaking, if you experience chronic foot and muscle cramps then it’s time to see a doctor. It’s best to see a Podiatrist who can evaluate your feet to make sure there is no underlying injury and from there recommend how to determine further treatments.