Here’s What’s Causing Your Foot Cramps Causes of nighttime foot cramps

 

Cramps are the involuntary tightening of a muscle that won’t relax, occurring most often in the calf and thighs. The cause of muscle cramps is not exactly known, but is thought to be caused by many things such as overuse, injury, staying in one place too long, strain and of course from being dehydrated. Those in hotter climates or in just plain in warmer weather are more likely to get cramps during activity, as there is more fluid loss. A foot cramp can occur at any time during the day or night. You may suddenly feel the muscles tighten or knot up for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes at a time.Nighttime foot cramps are closely related to nocturnal leg cramps, so you may also feel these sensations in your calves or thighs. The good news is that these cramps aren’t usually a reason for concern. While they can be associated with certain medical conditions, like diabetes or hypothyroidism, stretches and lifestyle changes may help ease them fast or help them go away entirely.

Inactivity

Sitting for long periods of time or otherwise being inactive may make the muscles in your feet more apt to cramp.Sitting with poor posture may also inhibit blood flow to your feet or lead to nerve compression which can therefore result in cramps.Even your sleep position may be a factor in circulation and nerve issues. Therefore, you may want to examine how you sleep to see if it might be contributing to nighttime cramping.

Overexertion of the muscles

On the other end of the spectrum, working the muscles in your feet too hard may make them vulnerable to cramping. The muscle fibers in your feet continually contract and expand to allow movement. If you do too much of an activity too soon or work your feet too strenuously, you may experience fatigue in your muscles. Fatigue depletes your body of oxygen and allows waste products to build up throughout the day and produce cramping and spasms at night.

Improper footwear or hard surfaces

Wearing poorly fitted shoes or shoes without enough support throughout the day may fatigue foot muscles as well. Not only that, standing or working on concrete floors or other hard surfaces can have a similar effect. The foot muscles work extra hard to support the weight of your body. Improper footwear may also impair the foot’s circulation, cutting off blood and oxygen and producing painful spasms even when you’re off your feet

Dehydration

Maybe you’re not drinking enough water or you have an illness that dehydrates you. Even exercising in hot weather can dehydrate you quickly, draining your body of precious fluids, salts, and minerals, like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. When your body gets low in fluids and electrolytes, your muscles become more vulnerable to spasms and cramps. You continue sweating and losing fluids while you sleep. This is why your foot cramps may arise in the overnight hours.

Nutrient deficiency

Deficiencies in vitamins B-12, thiamin, folate, and other B vitamins may lead to nerve damage. Magnesium and potassium deficiencies may also lead to leg and foot cramps. If you suspect you may have a nutritional deficiency, contact your doctor or a nutritionist. A simple blood test can reveal your levels and indicate to your doctor if any supplementation or other treatment for underlying conditions is necessary.

Excessive alcohol use

Drinking too much alcohol may lead to nerve damage and a condition known as alcoholic neuropathy. Symptoms include anything from muscle cramping and weakness to numbness and tingling in the arms or legs. Not only that, but heavy alcohol use may also contribute to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies in important B vitamins. Just as with other nutritional deficiencies, lacking these vitamins may impair nerve function, making symptoms like muscle spasms worse.

Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant are more susceptible to leg and foot cramping at night, particularly in the second and third trimesters. Unfortunately, researchers don’t know exactly why this is the case. Possible reasons may include:

  • Extra weight on the feet as baby grows
  • Dehydration
  • Nutritional deficiencies, particularly in magnesium

Health issues and medications

Medical conditions associated with nighttime foot cramping include:

  • Structural issues, like spinal stenosis and peripheral arterial disease
  • Metabolic issues, like kidney disease, anemia, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • Other conditions, like nerve damage, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease

Certain medications may also make you more susceptible to cramping. These include:

  • Blood pressure medications
  • Statins
  • Diuretics
  • Birth control pills

Moreover, if you’re on dialysis, you can also be more prone to cramping.

What medications may cause leg cramps?

Certain medications including beta-agonists, statins, and diuretics, can cause leg or foot cramps as a side effect. People who receive dialysis may also have a higher risk of developing muscle cramps.

Other medications include:

  • Birth control pills
  • Diuretics
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Albuterol, an asthma medication
  • Statins

What medical problems can cause leg cramps?

Medical problems that can cause leg cramps include:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Kidney failure
  • Thyroid issues
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Vascular disease

What are the warning signs that leg cramps are coming?

A leg cramp feels like a clenched, contracted muscle tightened into a knot. It can be severely uncomfortable, painful or even unbearable.

Treatment for nighttime foot cramps

Move your body

If you exercise regularly, keep it up! Regular movement may help prevent leg and foot cramps in the day and night.

Stretch and soothe your muscles

Be sure to stretch each day to keep foot muscles loose, especially before and after an exercise session. If you experience a foot and/or leg cramp at night, stretch your foot forcefully to relieve the cramp by flexing your foot and pressing down on your big toe. Walking around and jiggling your leg may also help with both foot and leg cramps. Taking a warm bath or shower or using ice may ease any lingering pain. Deep tissue massage may help in the long term.

Consider the following stretches and exercises for relieving foot cramps:

Seated foot and heel raise

  1. Start with the feet flat on the floor, then raise the heels. Hold for 2 seconds.
  2. Place the feet back flat on the floor.
  3. Raise the toes and hold for 2 seconds. Place the feet back on the floor.
  4. Repeat this process five times.

Toe bend

  1. Start with the feet facing ahead. Bend the toes down for 2 seconds.
  2. Return the feet to the original position.
  3. Bend the toes up for 2 seconds, then relax the feet.
  4. Repeat this process five times.

Big toe lift

  1. Place the feet flat on the floor, facing straight ahead.
  2. Raise the big toe and hold for 2 seconds.
  3. Lower the big toe and relax the feet.
  4. Repeat this process five times.

Standing calf stretch

  1. Face a wall and place one foot on the wall.
  2. Lean into the stretch for 2 seconds.
  3. Swap the leg if necessary.
  4. Repeat this process five times.

Examine your shoes

Wear supportive shoes that are comfortable, especially if you often walk a lot on hard surfaces to decrease the strain on your feet and lower limb.

Drink more water

Keeping your muscles hydrated can also help prevent cramping, especially during and after exercise. Pregnant or breastfeeding women may need more than average per day to meet their hydration needs.

Eat well and supplement

Muscle cramps related to mineral deficiencies may improve with dietary changes. Leafy green vegetables, legumes, and nuts are all rich sources of magnesium. Many fruits and vegetables also contain high quantities of potassium. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium, potassium, and especially magnesium.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Unsweetened dried fruits

Bananas and leafy greens may also help balance electrolytes.

Lower your alcohol intake

Limit alcoholic beverages, like beer, wine, and mixed drinks, as these can dehydrate you.

In pregnancy

Let your doctor know if you’re experiencing nighttime foot cramping during pregnancy. While many of the same self-care measures may help you, your doctor can provide additional guidance. Stretch your foot when a cramp strikes and elevate your legs to keep cramps at bay. Staying active, getting a massage, and taking a warm (not hot) shower or bath may also help. You may find that the cramps go away on their own after you deliver your baby.

Conclusion

Foot and leg cramps are not reason for concern, however if they are persistent, it is always worth contacting your health care practitioner for further advice.

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