For as long as we can remember, we’ve been trying to avoid pain. We avoid dangerous activities because we don’t want to suffer the consequences. And for the most part, this works out. We go through most of our days feeling fine.
But it doesn’t always work that way. One wrong move and you can spend the day dealing with a dull ache because you moved in a way your body wasn’t comfortable with. And the worst part is sometimes it’s not even your fault. Most of the time, if you have a stiff neck or a sore muscle, you probably woke up with it.
But if any of these mystery aches can take the cake, it’s the cramps that can show up at the bottom of your foot. They’re just as frustrating as they are hard to figure out. Hopefully we can help you get to the bottom of yours.
Whether you call it a foot or leg cramp (aka “charley horse”), it’s a common, somewhat mysterious pain that happens when a muscle gets involuntarily stiff and can’t relax.
You never know when a foot cramp is going to strike.
But what’s really going on when they happen?
Normally, your muscle fibers loosen and tighten to suit your movement.
But when you make a move your muscles aren’t prepared for, they can tighten more than they should, which causes the cramp. This doubles when your body doesn’t have everything it needs.
Most of the time, it happens to athletes when the season is starting up.
If muscles are overused or injured during exercise, you can bet some cramps are on their way.
The older you get, the more likely foot cramps are.
When muscles age, they can’t respond as quickly as they used to, so it’s easier to take them by surprise and cause tightening.
Another common cause for foot cramps is dehydration.
If your body isn’t getting enough water, it can take a toll on your muscles.
Foot cramps can also flare up if you’re low on vitamin D.
The same goes for low levels of calcium or magnesium.
Pregnant women may also start getting muscle cramps.
It looks like it’s especially common during the third trimester.
But watch out if cramps are severe and happen often.
This can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease, MS, Huntington’s disease, or thyroid and kidney problems. If this sounds like your cramps, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor.
But if none of these explain your cramps, there’s something else you should know.
They often have no clear cause. Sorry.
So now that we know what these cramps are,
what can we do when they flare up?
Gently stretch and massage where you’re feeling the cramp.
You can also use a hot compress if it’s feeling tight or a cold one if it’s feeling tender.
If the problem is a lack of vitamin D, you can also take supplements.
You may also find calcium supplements helpful. But with either one, you’ll want to talk to a doctor first.
You’ll also want to get regular exercise.
Sports or other aerobic activities can help, but remember not to overdo it because that could make the cramps worse.
Before and after you work out, remember to stretch.
But don’t stretch until it hurts. You want to hold each position briefly.
And remember to stay hydrated during exercise.
Keep up this safe workout schedule and the foot cramps should get better.
Although most muscle cramps are benign, sometimes they can be an indication of a more serious medical condition. You should see your physician or medical health professional if the cramps are severe in nature, happen frequently, are persistent, fail to respond to simple treatments, or are not related to obvious causes like exercise or injury. You could have problems with circulation, nerves, metabolism, hormones, or nutrition. However, it is uncommon for muscle cramps to occur as the result of a medical condition without other obvious signs that the medical condition is present.