Have you ever been out for a run or drifting off to sleep when suddenly, without warning, the muscles in your foot or calf forcibly tighten up involuntarily? Foot and leg cramps, also known as “charley horse, can be quite painful. Typically, you have a to find the right position to get the muscle to finally relax so the pain will go away.
If you’ve experienced foot or leg cramps, you’re not alone. One in three adults will have a lower extremity muscle cramp at some point in their lifetime. While they do hurt, foot and leg cramps are usually harmless.
Common Causes and Treatments of Foot and Leg Cramps
Researchers think charley horses occur when the neurons in the spinal cord fire excessively. These neurons cause the muscles to contract. But what causes the neurons to first too much in the first place?
Some common causes and remedies for foot and leg cramps include:
As we age, our nerves and muscles can wear out, causing cramping.
What you can do: As you get older, make sure to stay active, stretch, and eat a nutritious diet.
When you don’t drink enough water, you can become dehydrated – a condition in which your body doesn’t have enough water to function properly.
What you can do: Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommend about 15.5 cups of fluids a day for men, and about 11.5 cups of fluids daily for women.
Minerals like calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium help control the contraction and relaxation of your muscles. When your body doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs, you could have a higher risk for foot and leg cramps. Particularly, low blood levels of calcium or magnesium can increase the excitability of the nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate.
What you can do: Try taking supplements of these nutrients. Make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes leafy green veggies that are high in magnesium, dairy foods for more calcium, and bananas and avocados for potassium.
WalkEZStore founder Kathy Carandang recommends an AdvoCare product called Rehydrate. This product is an electrolyte replacement drink mix that uses vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, Sustamine, and a blend of important electrolytes to help replace minerals and electrolytes lost through sweat. Rehydrate helps you stay hydrated during physical activity, and it helps you recover more quickly afterwards. For more information about Rehydrate and to order, visit http://bit.ly/AdvocareNutrition.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications like statins, diuretics, antipsychotics, and beta-blockers, can cause muscle cramps.
What you can do: If you’re concerned a medication is causing your foot and leg cramps, talk to your doctor.
Exercising without Stretching
Foot and leg cramps can be brought on when muscles haven’t been warmed up before exercising.
What you can do: Stretch every day to keep your muscles strong and as supple as they can be. Make sure you stretch properly before exercising.
When walking or exercising, inadequate oxygen to the muscle tissue can cause severe pain to occur in the calf muscles. This pain is due to an accumulation of lactic acid and other chemicals in the muscles.
What you can do: If you experience leg cramps while walking, or if you have cramps that won’t stop, see your doctor.
Women can experience leg cramps due to wearing high-heeled shoes. Or, when they switch from flats to high heels. Additionally, poorly fitted shoes can also cause foot cramps.
What you can do: Ensure your shoes fit properly. Refer to our Shoe Fitting Guide for information on how to properly fit your shoes. Avoid wearing heels higher than 2 inches. Wear comfortable shoes that provide adequate support whenever possible. If you suffer from painful foot conditions, consider wearing custom orthotics like ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics in your shoes. Our custom orthotics help reduce the stress and strain on your feet and legs by properly supporting your feet. Every step you take throughout the gait cycle will be more optimally controlled, helping to reduce your pain. For more information about ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics, visit the WalkEZStore.com. To order your pair of ezWalker® Custom Orthotics, click here.
Note: If your pain persists, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Persistent pain can indicate a more serious condition.
While foot and leg cramps can be a painful annoyance, they’re usually not serious. By following the above suggestions and taking good care of your body, you should experience foot and leg cramps less frequently.
But if your foot and leg cramps do become severe and occur more often, call your doctor.
ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics Because … When your feet feel good, you feel good.®
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cover photo credit: 123RF / maridav