Foot Cramps at Night? What You Need to Know!

Foot cramps in the night, University Foot and Ankle Institute

Ever have a pleasant sleep interrupted by the overwhelming need to leap out of bed and do 20 quick laps around the room? All while trying to keep your cursing from waking up the family? Yeah, that’s the havoc foot cramps at night can wreak. Here’s some information to help restore your rest.

Where does the agonizing clench of foot cramps come from?

In neurological terms, it’s a failure to communicate. Your muscles get a mistaken message to flex hard, flex to the point of locking up. And you can’t get those rock-hard muscles to acknowledge your desperate countervailing message to relax, and let you get back to sleep.

Muscle cramps in feet can be from many factors, including:

Are you not drinking enough water?

It could be the water you’re not drinking. Hydration is essential for good neurological communication. So drink plenty of water throughout the day, and keep the tank filled up during any prolonged exercise.

Is your diet the problem?

A balance of electrolytes (calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium) is essential for efficient brain-to-muscle message transmission. Leafy green vegetables and fruits, including bananas, can add the necessary elements. Deficiencies in the B vitamins (B-12, thiamin, folate, etc.) can also disrupt nerve messages.

Are you stretching enough?

Take time to stretch your calf muscles and feet before beginning the day, before and after exercise, and before going to bed. And don’t let your stretching be perfunctory. Get a book.

Are you overexerting yourself?

When you exercise harder than usual, to the point of feeling muscle fatigue, make extra sure that your hydration, electrolyte supply, and stretching regimen are all in order.

Are you not active enough?

It could be inactivity. Sitting for long periods of time or otherwise being inactive may cause muscle cramping in your feet. 

Do you have bad circulation?

Some blood flow problems mimic the pain of cramping. If your foot cramping happens while you are exercising, it could be arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries in the extremities). So if you frequently get muscle spasms while exercising, see your doctor.

Could it be a side effect of any medication?

Medicines such as statins (lowers cholesterol) and diuretics like Lasix (controls liquid retention) can mimic the pain of muscle cramps. Diuretics (lower blood pressure) can indirectly cause foot cramping by depleting electrolytes from your system. If you have cramps soon after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor.

Could it be bad footwear?

Just examine a pair of stilettos, and then watch a woman walk on them. You know her foot muscles are going to rebel in tight shoes. And you know their rebellion is righteous.

Are you standing all day without sufficient arch support?

Custom Orthotics can be a real lifesaver (and foot saver) for many people, but especially for those who stand a lot. Another option to look at is arch support socks, such as those made by ArchTek, which were invented by UFAI’s own Dr. Bob Baravarian.

Do you have nerve compression issues?

This can be caused by narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal column.

Could it just be your age?

I know how sucky this is to say, but it is a fact that older people lose muscle mass, so what’s left can be more easily overstressed.

Are you pregnant?

It could be a birth-to-be. Muscle cramps are a lot more common during pregnancy.

Or could it be an underlying medical condition?

Symptoms of diabetes, thyroid conditions, kidney disease, and anemia can include muscle cramps.

What to do when foot cramps strike?

The good news is that ordinary foot cramps will generally subside, given some help. Triage includes those 20 laps around the room. Immediate stretching, coupled with massage, will also help. If you happen to have a stationary bike handy, use it. Cursing does seem to help, as well.

If the pain persists, ice and/or a warm bath or heating pad may ease the agony. Ibuprofen can provide some pain relief. 

How to prevent foot cramps

Longer term remedies for cramp relief include:

  • Establishing a regular pattern of exercise, together with foot and calf stretches.
  • Sufficient hydration.
  • Adequate dietary electrolytes (magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium), and B vitamins. Beans, nuts, and seeds are rich in magnesium.
  • Forgiving footwear.
  • Chronic or severe foot cramps should be checked for underlying conditions and be treated by your doctor. 

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute to address your foot pain?

If you’re experiencing severe foot cramps or have any other foot conditions, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in researching, diagnosing, and treating all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

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