Though not serious, foot cramps are very painful – something you want to avoid.  Understanding the causes of foot cramps can help you prevent those nasty spasms.

Foot cramps are sudden, painful, intense, involuntary spasms of muscles. They commonly occur in the arch of your foot but the toes, especially the big toe, can also be affected.

They can happen to anyone and at any age, including children. They usually last for about three minutes. If you are getting cramps every day, you should see your doctor.

Though they are a painful nuisance, they are not usually serious. Knowing the cause can help you prevent and treat the problem as soon as it starts.


10 Causes of Foot Cramps

1. Poor Circulation

  • Foot cramps can be a sign of decreased circulation. When the muscles in our extremities don’t get enough blood and oxygen, cramping results. Poor circulation can be caused by some medical conditions.
  • Cramping can also occur if you have poor posture. Long periods standing or sleeping in the same position reduces circulation to your foot.


2. Lack of Vitamins & Minerals

The right balance of electrolytes is essential for the contraction and relaxation of your muscles.  Foot cramps are often caused by imbalances in:

Calcium which helps transmit nerve impulses to the muscle cells so that the muscles contract and relax normally. Calcium levels can be reduced if you consume a lot of caffeine. Lack of vitamin D and high sodium levels can also reduce calcium levels.

Magnesium. Lack of magnesium locks calcium and sodium ions into the muscle which prevents it from relaxing.

Vitamin D helps absorb calcium and magnesium.

Vitamin E promotes good circulation of blood, oxygen and nutrients and is needed for the production of red blood cells. Lack of vitamin E can reduce oxygen levels to the muscles resulting in foot cramps.

Potassium – low potassium levels (hypokalemia) can be caused by excessive vomiting, sweating, kidney problems or medication.

Vitamin B6 is vital for healthy functioning of nerves and muscles.


3. Dehydration

To function properly, your body needs water and other fluids, especially ones that provide electrolytes. Smoking, and drinking alcohol can dehydrate the body. Loss of fluid through sweating reduces the levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium.


4.  Nerve Damage

Nerves transmit signals from your brain to your muscles, telling them when to contract and relax.  If a nerve is damaged or pinched, those signals are unable to pass through properly which results in foot cramps.


5. Muscle Tightness

Tightness in the foot muscles, especially those running under the sole of the foot, can cause foot and toe cramps.


6. Muscle fatigue

If you exercise harder than usual, or have been over-working your muscles, or your body is generally fatigued, you are more likely to develop cramp. Athletes, dancers, and people who are on their feet all day at work are more prone to foot cramps.


7. Injury

Trauma often causes muscles to spasm to protect from them from further damage and prevent further injury.


8. The wrong shoes

Wearing high heels or narrow, pointed shoes squashes your feet which can increase the risk of toe cramps.


9. Medical conditions

  • Some medical conditions such as diabetes, or thyroid problems can cause foot cramps.
  • Hormone imbalance and pregnancy. Foot cramps, especially at night are common in the third trimester of pregnancy due to pressure from the uterus on the veins bringing blood up from the legs.  Cramping in the foot also occurs during the menopause.


10. Medications

  • One of the most common is diuretics, (often called ‘water pills’) such as Furosemide, which increases urine production. This leads to an imbalance of calcium and potassium.
  • Statins -used to lower cholesterol- can also cause muscle cramps.

The exact cause of cramp is often difficult to define and may be due to a combination of these factors. Knowing the various causes of foot cramps can help you treat them and prevent them from occurring.

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