Why Is Your Foot Cramping?

“Ugly! Ugly, giant bags of mostly water.” Those were the words of an alien life force when it got its first glimpse of a human in a 1988 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Isn’t that just the greatest description of the human body? Well, the “ugly” part is purely in the eye of the beholder, but it’s true that we’re mostly containers of water — up to 60%, depending on our age and gender.

Our bodies are constantly losing water through sweating from our skin, eliminating waste through our kidneys and digestive tract, and exhaling from our lungs. It’s really important for us to remember to replenish the water we’re losing – especially during these dog days of summer – by drinking enough water.

Fighting foot cramps

When your body isn’t properly hydrated, you might get a bad headache, feel dizzy or confused, or get really sleepy. Another sign of dehydration is muscle pain and cramping, and the feet are no exception. If you wake up in the middle of the night with foot cramps (many people experience them in their legs as well), you can try standing up, slowly flexing your foot to gently stretch the muscles, or rubbing the affected area. Soaking your feet in a warm foot bath may also bring relief.

Other reasons for foot cramps

While dehydration is a common cause of foot cramps, there are plenty of others:

  • certain medications, particularly statins used to lower blood pressure
  • too much exercise
  • shoes that are too tight, which can restrict blood flow and make your toes cramp up
  • poor circulation (a problem with your blood vessels)
  • smoking
  • a deficiency of potassium, calcium, magnesium or sodium – minerals that your muscles need to function smoothly
  • too much caffeine (coffee, tea, or soda)
  • alcohol abuse

Occasional foot cramps are probably nothing to worry about. However, if you have chronic foot cramps that don’t improve by increasing your water or mineral intake, contact board-certified podiatrist Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center for a thorough examination to get to the bottom of your foot pain. We’re located in Centreville, VA, just west of D.C. Call us at (703) 996-3000.

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