A cramp is a sudden painful, sensation caused by involuntary shortening or contraction of muscles. Generally cramps occur in the foot, calf or thigh when exercising, playing sports or lying in bed. Cold, dehydration or low calcium level can also be responsible for muscle cramps. Foot cramps can be depicted as unpredictable, non-voluntary spasms in the inner arch or toes of the feet, which might broaden from a few minutes to few days. Leg cramps are commonly seen amongst sports person and aging individuals. Leg cramp duration ranges from less than a minute to several minutes at times. Cramps are not an uncommon phenomenon but regular happening of foot cramps presents a reason to worry and requires a visit to the doctor.
Cramps in feet are usually painful and extremely discomforting. Painful knots, leg cramps are frequently referred to as ‘charley horses’, caused by muscle spasms. Usually, cramps take place in the muscles that cross two joints for example the calf, hamstring and quadriceps. Overweight, fluid imbalances, dehydration, rigorous exercises, muscle fatigue due to overexertion, diminished blood supply and nerve abnormalities are common causes for leg cramps. When a person is suffering from leg cramps, the mostly observed symptoms are severe leg pain, muscle tenderness and inability to move the leg. Involuntary contraction of muscle, the spasm that characterizes foot cramp departs the muscle sore even after the pain is gone.
Causes of Foot Cramps:
- Electrolyte imbalance in the body
- Flat feet or hyper flexible joints
- Foot problems, like tendonitis and plantar fasciitis
- Inadequate hydration (not drinking enough water)
- Hormonal imbalance in the body
- Injury caused by repetitive motion
- Lack of muscle strengthening exercise
- Low potassium levels in the body
- Wearing old, worn-out footwear
- Poor blood circulation in the body
- Sedentary lifestyle, leading to obesity and muscle weakness
- Fatigue from walking or standing for extended periods of time
- Increased breathing during cardio exercises
- Sudden increase in the intensity of workouts
- Deficiency of vitamin D in the body
- Magnesium or calcium deficiency
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Nerve abnormalities
- Diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, illnesses of the nervous system, diabetes, tetanus and thyroid
Symptoms of Cramps in Legs:
- Severe pain in the legs
- Tenderness in the affected area
- Patient is unable to move his legs till the time the cramps last
- Sudden occurrence while at rest or while lying down
- A visible twitching of the muscle beneath the skin can occur with more severe cramps
Treatment for Cramps in Feet:
Treatment of leg cramp depends on the severity of the injury. To get rid of a leg cramp, the easiest way is to massage and stretch the muscle. Mild leg cramps can be relieved by topical muscle relaxants, massage oils, or oral analgesics. In case of more serious injury and severe pain, consult your doctor. Various conventional medications have been known to cause leg cramps and symptoms are also worsened with these medicines. Natural and herbal remedies are safe and effective solution to treat leg cramp symptoms.
Home Remedies for Leg Cramps:
- Those who frequently face the problem of leg cramps can try pressing their toes against the wall and stretch the calf muscles, 15-20 times daily.
- Before going to bed, take a hot shower as it is effective in curing leg cramps. Ensure to soak the feet in the water for sometime.
- Carry a hot water bottle with you and use it to apply heat on the affected area when you go to bed at night or rest in the daytime.
- Massage the affected area with essential oils, like lavender oil and rosemary oil and eucalyptus oil. Wrap the affected area with a towel dipped in hot water after massaging.
- For treating foot cramps, red raspberry leaf tea has also proven to be good. Consume a cup of red raspberry leaf tea, in the morning and evening. Bring a cup of water to boil and add a tsp red raspberry tea to it. Allow it steep for a few minutes, strain and drink when still warm.
- A glass of lukewarm milk before going to bed is an effective way to treat the leg cramps.
- Prepare chamomile tea and have it at least 5 times a day, in about 2 weeks. For preparation, take two or three teaspoons of chamomile flower per every cup of water. Bring the water to boil and allow the flower steep in it for a few minutes. Strain, add sugar or honey, and swallow warm.
- While you lie down on bed, stretch the legs as far as you can and hold it in the same position for half an hour. Push your heel onto the floor and bend your toes upwards while standing. This is a good way to treat leg cramps.
- Prepare a concoction by mixing one tbsp of calcium lactate, one tsp of apple cider vinegar and one tsp of honey in half a glass of lukewarm water. Drink it once in a day to treat leg cramps.
- Use cold packs on the affected muscle to relax the tensed muscles.
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself enough hydrated.
- Consume 2-3 bananas per day, as it raises the potassium intake in the body, thereby relieving a person from cramps.
- Increase the intake of foods rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium daily.
- Daily intake of 2 tsp of honey is also helpful in preventing leg cramps.
Herbal Remedies for Leg Cramps:
- Drink a cup of papaya seed tea six or seven times daily for 2 or 3 weeks for relief from joint pain.
- Take 1 raw clove of garlic daily. This clove can be fried in ghee (clarified butter) or castor oil. Take for 2 months.
Exercise for foot cramps:
In the prevention of leg cramps, warm-ups and stretching before the start of a workout or physical fitness program is vital. You can also place a rolled up bed sheet or blanket at the feet to avert the toes and feet from pointing downward while sleeping. Before bedtime, you can also ride a bicycle for a short time to loosen up the muscles. The physical fitness program also helps you to relieve pain.
The acupressure technique is another tested and proven way to cure leg cramps. Grab the upper lip of the thumb and index finger and apply pressure for approximately thirty seconds. It is effective as said by sports injury management specialist who works with Olympics aspirants named Patrice Morency. You can also apply direct pressure with the use of fingers on the affected area for about ten to fifteen seconds before releasing it and re-applying the pressure. This procedure can be repeated several times until the muscle is relaxed.
Contracting the muscle opposing the cramped muscles is another way to cure leg cramps as this procedure will compel the affected muscle to loosen. One should sit down on the floor to relax the hamstring and extend the leg, get hold of the toes and slowly drag it towards the knee.
Prevention of Muscle Cramps:
- Try to sleep on your side and don’t tuck in your blankets and sheets too tightly if you get nighttime cramps.
- Stand with the balls of your feet on a step and lower your heels foe a gentle stretch holding on to something for a balance.
- Drink plenty of water before you begin and during the course and after the exercise.
- Don’t take salt tablets as it may cause dehydration, nausea and vomiting.
- Get your medications checked from a physician if cramps keep recurring. And raise your intake of potassium rich foods like potatoes, oranges and bananas.
- If you are prone to calf cramps, then regular calf stretching exercises will help.
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