Foot cramps can be more than just painful. Whether it’s a cramp, or spasm – the sharp pain can take you right out of the game without warning. While everyone is prone to muscle cramping in their feet, you may also notice cramps that occur in your calf muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps, and buttocks. All of these types of cramps can happen for a variety of reasons.
Dehydration is one of the most common culprits of foot cramps.
Other reasons you may be suffering from foot cramps include a lack of warm stretching, poor circulation to the extremities, or just plain old muscle fatigue. No matter what the cause of your cramping is, it can be startling when those cramps hit at odd times, like while you are at your workplace, or at night as you sleep. So, stop muscle cramps before they hit!
Here are seven ways to avoid foot cramps:
1. Drink more water.
Because your muscle cells are made up primarily of water, it is very important to get enough of this essential nutrient into your body, every day. How much water do you need? While the eight 8-ounce glasses a day rule is not technically validated by science, it is a good general rule to follow. Another recommendation, this one from the Mayo Clinic, suggests that daily intake of water for adult men is about 13 cups (3 liters), and for women about 9 cups (2.2 liters) in moderate climates.1
If you are exercising during the day, or you find that you are sweating more than usual due to hot temperatures, you may want to increase your intake of water to avoid foot cramping.
2. Consume electrolytes.
If you are sweating, that means that your body is eliminating toxins through the pores of your skin – which is a good thing! However, when you sweat, your body also loses essential minerals known as electrolytes, including sodium, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals are vital to preventing muscle cramps in your feet, as they are needed to carry electrical currents between the neurons of muscle tissue. Without enough electrolytes, your muscles will not be able to contract and relax properly, which can increase your risk of foot cramps.2 Natural sources of electrolytes include bananas, coconut water, and Nucfic’s Dr. Amy Lee suggests a sports drinks.
3. A multivitamin/mineral supplement.
When the body is deficient in vital nutrients, it can increase the likelihood of muscle cramps, as well as the severity of the pain. Talk to your doctor to find the right vitamin supplement for you, as they may also be able to pinpoint any specific nutrient deficiencies that could be contributing to your foot cramps.3,4
4. Warm Up!
Muscles cramp when they are overworked. Many people don’t realize that when you try to stretch a cold muscle, cramping is more common. So, no matter what time of day or night, it can be helpful to warm up your foot muscles with stretches so you can avoid cramping.
Here is a warm-up you can try:
· Start with one foot (Left or Right). Fully point your toe and hold for a few seconds.
· Then flex the foot as far as you can, with toes towards your body. Hold for a few seconds.
· Point the toes again and use your big toe to “spell” out each letter of your first name.
· Repeat steps 1-2 on the opposite foot, and then for step 3 spell out your last name.
5. Try an anti-inflammatory.
Studies have shown the power of natural anti-inflammatories, including pycnogenol, to reduce muscle spasms in the feet. Pycnogenol, a product derived from pine bark extract, is one natural way to alleviate potentially painful foot cramps.5
6. Chill out.
Stress has a way of making just about everything worse. And when foot cramps strike, it can be helpful to just relax, as trying to push through the pain usually only makes the pain more severe.6
When a foot cramp strikes, it can really hurt. So treat yourself to a massage directly on the affected area to hit the spot. Massaging the area gently can help to increase circulation to the muscles, alleviating the spasm once it’s started.
Foot cramps are extremely common, but they are preventable. Try these seven tips to avoid foot cramps, and you may be able to head them off entirely – or at least stop the painful spasms once they’ve started.
For more helpful health news, keep reading:
1. Water: How much should you drink every day?. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256
2. Alan P Jung, Phillip A Bishop. Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps.
3. El-Hennawy AS, Zaib S. A selected controlled trial of supplementary vitamin E for treatment of muscle cramps in hemodialysis patients.
4. Katzberg HD, Khan AH. Assessment: symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps (an evidence-based review): report of the therapeutics and technology assessment subcommittee of the American academy of neurology.
5. Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G. Cramps and muscular pain: prevention with pycnogenol in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy.
6. Vinciguerra G, Belcaro G. Cramps and muscular pain: prevention with pycnogenol in normal subjects, venous patients, athletes, claudicants and in diabetic microangiopathy.