Foot Cramps and Charley Horses
Posted: September 1, 2018 9:39 am
Foot Cramps and Charley Horses – Causes and Remedies
You’re sound asleep, and then, without warning, you wake up with a paralyzing stiffness in your calf or foot. 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.
Here’s what causes these cramps, as well as tips to help prevent them.
- Lack of hydration. You want to make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
- Problems with nutrition. While a balance of electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium) is essential for the contraction and relaxation of a muscle, it’s best not to simply self-treat with supplements.
- Side effect of medication. Some medications such as statins and furosemide (Lasix®) can also cause muscle cramps.
- Not stretching enough. Taking time to stretch each day, including after a brief warm up or after a shower can help.
- Overexertion. If you exercise harder than usual or experience muscle fatigue, this can cause cramps. Pace yourself.
- Poor circulation. If you have cramping that increases when you walk, it could be a problem with your circulation. “Some circulation problems cause pain that feels like cramping.
- The wrong shoes. A less-known cause for muscle cramping: your shoes.
There are some simple ways to respond to leg and foot cramps:
- If it happens while you are lying down or in bed, try to simply stand up and put some weight on the affected leg or foot. This can sometimes be enough to stop that tender stiffness.
- Use warmth/heating pads to increase blood circulation to the muscle and to relax it. Soaking in a warm tub of Epsom salt can also help ease the tension.
- For more stubborn pain, you can try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen.
Here are some simple stretches that can help stop pain and prevent it.
This calf stretch is commonly used by runners. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand with your palms placed against a wall, with arms stretched out
- Step back with leg of affected calf
- Lean forward on the other leg and push against the wall
Do this towel stretch while you sit:
- Keep legs outstretched in front of you
- Point the toes of your affected foot at the ceiling so that the leg is engaged
- Take a towel or neck tie and wrap it around your foot, holding it with both hands
- Lift the leg slightly until you feel a good stretch
While generally they can be managed at home, if they happen frequently, are severe, or if you are concerned please contact our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mussett. We offer same day scheduling for your convenience.
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