A foot cramp, sometimes called a charley horse, is a sudden, involuntary spasm or tightening in the muscles of your feet. If you have ever experienced one, you know how unpleasant it can be. Although not usually serious, a muscle spasm can be intense and cause temporary immobilizing pain. Often, a spasm occurs on the big toe and/or the inside arch of the foot. Consulting with an experienced podiatrist can help you understand the underlying cause of these frustrating episodes, so you can find relief from this uncomfortable, painful condition.  Causes of foot cramps

What to Know About Foot Cramps

There are many reasons that a foot muscle could cramp up, but most often, it falls into two broad areas: deficient nutrition and fatigue. If you don’t give your muscles the nutrients and chemicals needed for them to perform and function properly, they will sometimes have occasional breakdowns. If the muscles in your feet are overused, abused, or subjected to too much wear and tear, they can spasm.

Causes of Foot Cramps

  • Lack of hydration and electrolytes
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Overuse or overexertion
  • Inadequate stretching or not warming up before exercise

Other potential causes that are more serious include nerve compression from underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis, poor circulation in the feet, and a vitamin deficiency. Foot and leg cramps can also be caused by serious conditions such as end-stage kidney disease or cirrhosis. It is essential to speak with your podiatrist to determine the underlying cause of your foot cramps, so you can get treated before more serious complications occur.

If you notice the following symptoms along with the cramping, it could indicate a blood clot, which requires immediate medical attention:

  • Redness
  • Discoloration
  • Swelling

Treating Foot Cramps

If you frequently suffer from foot cramps, it is important to discuss possible treatments with your podiatrist. With the correct diagnosis and treatment plan, foot cramps can be managed and often prevented. At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, our podiatrists use a variety of methods to help treat foot cramps. These treatments include:

  • Massage therapy. Massage therapy can help improve circulation in the feet and reduce tension in the muscles, which can provide relief from foot cramps.
  • Stretching exercises. Regular stretching can help reduce the chances of experiencing foot cramps due to improved flexibility and range of motion.
  • Orthotics. Custom orthotics can be worn inside the shoes to provide additional support to the feet and relief from muscle spasms.
  • Ultrasound therapy. This technique uses sound waves, or ultrasound, to reduce muscle tension and spasms.
  • Lifestyle modifications. Changes such as increasing hydration, improving nutrition, reducing stress levels, and avoiding activities that can cause foot cramps can help prevent future episodes. Talk to your podiatrist for other recommendations that can help reduce your chances of developing them.
  • Medication. If you are experiencing pain because of foot cramps, taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen might provide relief. You should always consult with your podiatrist before taking them.

Depending on the cause, ignoring your foot cramps can cause them to worsen over time, leading to further complications. If left untreated, cramps can cause pain and discomfort for days or even weeks. Untreated foot cramps could lead to other muscular conditions needing medical attention.  In addition, without proper treatment, foot cramps can cause injuries to the tendons, ligaments, and muscles in the foot and may eventually lead to a loss of mobility due to pain or stiffness.

Ways to Help Prevent Painful Foot Cramps

  • Take the time to stretch your leg and feet muscles before engaging in any activity
  • Avoid going barefoot, and always wear comfortable shoes that support the feet and have room in the toes
  • Keep active by exercising regularly
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
  • Massage your feet regularly to increase circulation
  • Maintain a healthy diet filled with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • See a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem

Contact Our Austin Podiatrist

If you have foot cramps, contact our experienced podiatrists at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for an evaluation today. We can create an individualized treatment plan based on your specific needs. To schedule an appointment, contact us online, or call our office at 512-328-8900.


Craig Thomajan
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Austin Podiatrist
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