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Causes of Foot Cramps

Dr. Maisie M
Foot cramps refer to sudden, involuntary contractions affecting one or more muscles of the foot. The story provides information on some of the common causes of foot cramps.
Foot cramps are involuntary contractions of a single muscle or muscle group in the foot that are often characterized by intense pain. These spasmodic contractions may last for a few seconds to minutes. The affected individual experiences pain when the muscle tightens or contracts, but doesn't relax.
In case of severe cramps, muscle soreness might be experienced even after the muscle relaxes. It is not abnormal for cramps to recur multiple times till they finally go away.
Since our feet bear the weight of our entire body, foot cramps are more common than cramps in other part of the body. Though adults are more likely to experience cramps, children could also get affected.
When it comes to cramps in the foot, the inner arch of the foot and toes are the areas that often get affected. Cramps often affect the calf muscles, or muscles in the front or back of the thighs. Visible hardening of the affected muscle is one of the characteristic signs of muscle cramps.

Contributing Factors

Muscle fatigue is one of the common precipitating factors. Poor lifestyle could make a person susceptible to muscle cramps. Here are some of the other causes of involuntary muscle contractions.
➞ Increased pressure on the foot due to flat feet
➞ Sedentary lifestyle, leading to obesity and muscle weakness
➞ Sudden increase in the intensity of workouts that increases pressure on the foot
➞ Lower availability of calcium in blood due to increased breathing during cardio workouts
➞ Injury caused by repetitive movements
➞ Use of ill-fitting or worn-out footwear
➞ Prolonged use of diuretics, leading to dehydration

Conditions that may Cause Foot Cramps

Poor blood circulation in the lower extremities can give rise to foot pain and cramping. Muscles in the feet tend to cramp due to reduced supply of oxygen. Certain medical conditions could also make one susceptible to cramps. These include:

Nutritional Deficiencies
Cramps can also occur due to vitamin D deficiency and electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge. These include sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate. 
Without magnesium, calcium cannot be utilized properly. Potassium imbalance can also disturb magnesium and calcium metabolism, which is necessary for normal muscle contraction. Electrolyte imbalance can have an adverse effect on the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Medical Conditions
Foot problems like tendonitis and plantar fasciitis could also cause cramping in the feet. Diabetes, thyroid problems, or compressed nerves can also cause cramps. When the electrical impulses originating in the brain are not able to reach the muscle, it can give rise to cramps and other symptoms like tingling, pain, etc.
Dehydration can also lead to muscle cramps. It is important to note that when you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Hence, you have to ensure that you drink sufficient amounts of water everyday. Those who smoke or drink alcohol and caffeinated drinks regularly are more likely to get dehydrated.


If you often experience cramps, you can follow the self-care measures given below:
➞ The part of the foot that is cramped should be moved in the opposite direction to relieve the undue stretch on the muscle. To relieve the cramp in toes, they should be turned upwards. If the muscle spasm is in the calf region, 'forced dorsiflexion of foot' can relieve the muscle pain within seconds.
Here, dorsiflexion means elevating the forefoot (in a direction opposite to the ground) whilst keeping the heel stable.
➞ Taking over-the-counter painkillers may provide relief.
➞ Applying ice packs to the affected region can also help to some extent. Application of a heating pad is recommended to reduce muscle soreness.
➞ Applying an elastic bandage on the foot would also promote healing.
➞ Massaging the cramped portion with an ointment or massage oil will help reduce muscle fatigue.
➞ Take nutritional supplements as per the prescribed dosage to correct electrolyte and nutritional deficiencies.

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Preventive Measures

Taking certain preventive measures will also prove beneficial. Here's what you can do to prevent cramps.

Perform stretches or warm-up exercises before workouts or any strenuous physical activity.
➞ Follow a healthy diet and an exercise regimen to strengthen your muscles.
➞ Wear shoes that fit you well.
➞ Drink adequate amounts of water and fluids.
Standing or walking for prolonged periods can cause muscle fatigue, which in turn may cause cramps. If you are in a line of work, where you have to walk or stand for long hours, then you may want to cushion your feet by putting cushion inserts in your shoes. This will reduce the stress and strain on the feet, thereby lowering the frequency of cramps.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this story is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.