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Foot and toes cramps

Muscle cramps are involuntary contractions that affect anyone, regardless of age. They can occur in different areas of the body, but one of the most common cramps are carpopedal spasms, i.e. those that cause pain in the muscles of the hands and feet.

However, more than 80% of cases of muscle cramps originate in the lower limbs and affect the feet or toes of the sufferer. For this reason, it is of great interest to study in depth what muscle spasms in feet and toes are, in order to know their causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention methods.

What are muscle cramps in feet and toes?

This type of spasm is defined as painful contractions or stiffening that occur in the muscles connected to the feet or toes of these extremities. Thus, they appear as a kind of sudden, temporary and intense prickling in the foot. In addition, in some cases, foot cramps cause redness, swelling, skin changes in the area and muscle weakness.

For their part, spasms in the feet or toes also cause the impossibility of distending or using the affected muscle for several minutes (up to more than 15, depending on the severity of the case) and thus hinder the movement of the limb. However, although they usually cause a lot of pain and discomfort, the truth is that these muscle spasms are not considered as serious as other medical conditions.

What causes involuntary muscle spasms in feet and toes?

Specifically, sudden cramps in the feet and toes do not have a single defined cause so far. There are various motives and factors that trigger these painful contractions and it also depends on the state of health of the affected person.

Different causes for these spasms can be distinguished and here, we will point out the most relevant of them all:

  • Excessive fluid loss in the body, or what is known as dehydration, often leads to muscle cramps and, in many cases, to major injuries. This is because dehydration promotes a depletion of minerals in the body.
  • If the patient is deficient in certain minerals such as magnesium, potassium and calcium, they are likely to suffer intense cramps in their feet and toes or any other muscle in the body.
  • Another agent of involuntary muscle contractures in the lower extremities (especially in the feet and toes) is the use of narrow shoes. This subjects the feet to great pressure and thus compromises the musculature or the basculo-nervous package.
  • People suffering from certain pathologies or disorders such as renal insufficiency, diabetes, hypothyroidism, or anaemia, for example, are almost always affected by muscular contractures in the feet and toes.
  • During pregnancy, many women experience a notable swelling in their legs and feet, due to weight gain and hormonal changes that lead to slow blood return and therefore cramps in these muscles.
  • Due to biomechanical factors, i.e. because the affected person has a bad stride, spasms are also generated in the feet and toes. This may even affect the knees, back or hips.
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is another major cause of cramps in these parts of the body. This is a disorder that inevitably stimulates movement of the legs and feet in order to soothe feelings of discomfort and distress.
  • Many brain disorders (such as: dystonia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease) tend to cause the manifestation of strong spasms in the patient’s feet.

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Main symptoms associated with muscle cramps of the toes

Main symptoms associated with muscle cramps of the toes

Once this ailment appears in the feet or toes, a series of signs and symptoms are automatically evident that alter the regular functioning of these extremities. Therefore, it is essential that people know what the main signs are in order to identify that there is a muscle spasm in these areas and thus, implement a relevant solution to alleviate the pathological condition in question.

We list the symptoms of foot cramps:

  • Tingling sensation and/or loss of sensation, flexibility or movement (numbness) of the affected foot or toes.
  • Severe muscle weakness that basically decreases the characteristic strength in one or more muscles connected to these limbs.
  • Strong, spontaneous twitching in a particular muscle; this is known as “twitching”.
  • Perception of heat and burning in the area that has been affected.
  • Some rapid, uncontrolled and purposeless movements of the toes or feet.
  • Fatigue or lack of energy and motivation to carry out any activity.

How to relieve the pain and improve the symptoms of muscle cramps in the feet?

Fortunately, there are different therapies, treatments, supplements and medications that help to improve the symptoms of muscle cramps in the feet. Thanks to this, you will be able to alleviate the pain that these contractions have generated there and it will even be possible to prevent them in the future.

We will explain each and every one of the procedures to follow to minimise the discomfort caused by a muscle spasm:

Alternative and complementary therapies

To alleviate the discomfort caused by muscle contractions in the feet, those affected can turn to alternative medicine, which offers various therapeutic techniques capable of moderating the symptoms associated with this condition.

These therapies include the following:

  • Compression therapy: Compression therapy is a type of treatment that, through an elastic device, involves applying controlled pressure to an area of the body to provide increased blood flow, as it helps to normalise muscle wall function and reduce venous pressure. Thus, it attenuates the symptoms produced by the spasms and eliminates the ailment. In this case, therapy with light or normal compression stockings should be carried out daily (for the time indicated by the specialist doctor) to improve the condition in the feet or toes.
  • Massage therapy: Therapeutic massages are also important to soothe the pain caused by cramps in the muscles connected to the feet or toes. By rubbing and rubbing the affected limb, the patient will get more blood flow and reach a state of relaxation that will motivate the body to get rid of the symptoms of the spasm. Although a visit to a specialist is recommended, the patient can also do this on his or her own by rubbing the foot upwards for several minutes each time the contraction appears or before going to sleep to prevent it.
  • Acupressure therapy: Acupuncture or acupressure therapy, designed as a treatment of traditional Chinese medicine, is also optimal for reducing the discomfort of foot and toe cramps. It is implemented by an expert with his or her fingers or elbows to stimulate certain strategic points on the human body to trigger a healing response in the patient.
  • Thermotherapy: Therapy that uses heat to moderate pain, known as “thermotherapy”, is also applied to the feet or toes afflicted by muscle contractures to attenuate the symptoms. Since, by nature, high temperatures tend to provide an analgesic, anti-inflammatory and relaxing effect on patients. For this purpose, therapists often apply heat to the affected area in solid, gaseous or semi-liquid form.
  • Natural remedies using plants: To treat and combat cramps in the feet or toes, it is also advisable to use natural remedies based on plants that help to soothe the pain, deflate the affected areas of the body and promote blood circulation. In this sense, some remedies suitable for eliminating the symptoms of these spasms are: preparing an arnica infusion and applying it to the limb, applying boldo compresses, drinking wormwood tea, preparing ulmaria dressings and drinking rosemary, acai, horse chestnut, horsetail or dandelion infusions.
  • Meditation and relaxation: While it is true, relaxation and meditation techniques bring a state of peace to the body that leads it to discharge anxiety and release any tension which, as a result, reduces the ailments that exist in the body. Therefore, if you practice yoga or any other relaxation technique, your body will get these benefits and thus, improve what has produced the cramp in your feet or toes.
  • Aromatherapy: This is an alternative treatment that, through the use of essential oils or aromatic liquids, promotes the physical and psychological well-being of individuals. Thanks to this, it guarantees pain relief due to its analgesic effects, boosts patients’ defences, reduces stress and even helps to prevent cell ageing. Therefore, it is advisable to use aromatherapy to treat the symptoms of spasms and in this case, the best essential oils are: lavender, oregano, fennel, thyme, cayenne, camphor, etc.
  • Acupuncture: According to studies, pressure on acupuncture points also has a good effect on muscle spasms in any area of the body. The insertion of fine needles in the indicated areas improves blood circulation and thus reduces the discomfort of patients with cramps in the feet or toes. If you want to resort to this therapy, it is important that you visit a TCM practitioner to apply the required pressure and massage the appropriate points to soothe the ailment.
  • Healthy lifestyle habits: Apart from soothing the pain that occurs during a spasm, healthy lifestyle habits help prevent these conditions by stimulating the proper functioning of the body. Among these habits, the following are recommended: drinking plenty of water to avoid any level of dehydration, eating foods that provide vitamins and minerals, exercising gradually without overloading the muscles, not wearing tight shoes, stretching and moving the feet correctly, avoiding stress and anxiety with meditation or yoga.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are considered a useful formula for treating involuntary contractions in the feet or toes. These are characterised by the fact that they contain optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids and enzymes among their ingredients, which naturally improve the well-being of the organism and strengthen all its functions.

That is why, in conjunction with a healthy and balanced diet, patients are recommended to eat foods that complement their effect on a daily basis, in a balanced way. In this way, in addition to attenuating the symptoms and signs of muscle spasms in the feet or toes, they will also help to prevent them on future occasions, thanks to the fact that they avoid the deficit of minerals that tend to produce these contractures.

We point out the best food supplements that you can include in your daily intake:

  • Magnesium: In many cases, muscle spasms are caused by a lack of magnesium in the body, which is the mineral responsible for maintaining the normal functioning of the muscular and nervous system. For this reason, it is appropriate to consume foods rich in magnesium to minimise the discomfort that occurs every time a sudden contraction appears. Among these foods, the most important are: nuts, chickpeas, lentils, avocado, spinach, quinoa, wholemeal bread and dark chocolate.
  • Potassium: It is defined as another relevant mineral for patients to obtain relief when they suffer from cramps in their feet or toes and even helps to prevent their appearance. Since, this type of electrolyte manages to optimise the functioning of nerves and muscles, apart from promoting a constant heart rate and establishing water balance. To consume potassium, you can resort to certain foods such as milk, yoghurt, papaya, kiwi, banana, tomato, spinach, broccoli, red meat and fish.
  • Calcium: This essential mineral in the human body is basically involved in the regulation of muscle contraction, supports bone mineralisation and is substantial in various enzymatic reactions. It therefore ensures optimal functioning of the muscular system and also helps to strengthen the nerves, which is crucial for preventing cramps in the fingers and feet. For this reason, we recommend consuming calcium from foods such as cheese, milk, yoghurt, seafood, nuts (almonds or hazelnuts), dried figs, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, raspberries and oranges.
  • Sodium: Sodium is a macromineral required by muscles and nerves to function properly. Because sodium helps muscles to respond correctly to any stimulus, it is important for the transmission and generation of nerve impulses and also regulates the concentrations of aqueous media. Therefore, patients suffering from muscle spasms should eat good doses of sodium, which is found in: table salt, meats and meat products, fatty sausages and sausages, milks and dairy products, fish and seafood, dehydrated broths and white bread.
  • Omega 3: It is based on an essential oil that helps to soothe aches and pains in the feet and toes whenever annoying sudden muscle contractions occur. In view of the fact that omega 3 is known to strengthen the blood vessels and also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the human body, it also improves the immune system, the lungs and the heart. Thus, this dietary supplement can be found in: milk, yoghurt, eggs, fish, nuts, olive oil, soya, flaxseed and canola oil.

Medicines

If muscle cramps in the lower limbs, especially in the feet, last for a long time, cause severe pain and are accompanied by swelling, a burning sensation and heat, it is best to visit a specialised doctor, in this case a podiatrist.

He or she will be able to study your case in detail and provide you with a clear diagnosis of the condition you are suffering from. In this way, it is not appropriate to self-medicate or take any drug recommended by unqualified people, as this could generate dangerous side effects, such as: diarrhoea, nausea, dizziness, gastritis, drowsiness, fainting, cardiac arrest, addiction or dependence.

Whereas, when visiting a specialist, he or she will take into account different essential aspects to assign you an effective treatment based on your background, your health condition, your age, your tolerance to the medication, the severity of the pain you are experiencing, etc.

Which prevention methods for toe and foot muscle spasms are the most effective?

Which prevention methods for toe and foot muscle spasms are the most effective?

By practising a number of care methods, people who suffer from muscle spasms on a regular basis have the possibility of mitigating the condition and even preventing it for life. This is because these methods give the body the necessary control to prevent the onset of sudden painful contractions in the feet or toes.

The following prevention methods for a better lifestyle are:

  • Include exercise in your daily routine: Doing physical activity gradually and without overexerting your muscles will help you to keep them in good condition to prevent them from contracting and tightening for reasons of circulation until they spasm.
  • Work the foot muscles correctly: By stretching and massaging your feet well, as well as practising different suitable exercises, you will be able to work the foot muscles and, by acquiring greater strength, they will prevent the appearance of involuntary contractions.
  • Stay well hydrated: If you drink water constantly, it will be impossible for your body to become dehydrated and, due to the loss of salts, spasms will occur. Therefore, don’t forget to drink the recommended amount every day (3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women).
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet: By increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, avoiding processed foods and consuming food supplements rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium and omega-3, your body will increase its stamina and thwart any attempts at cramp.
  • Wear proper footwear that elevates the comfort of your feet: This will keep your feet from being pressed down to the point of negatively altering blood flow and causing contractures.
  • Practice yoga, meditation or any relaxation technique: If you include this habit in your daily life, you will be able to acquire a state of peace that reduces stress and anxiety levels. In this way, the body itself will be able to mitigate all the tension present in the muscles and, along with this, the chances of suffering muscle spasms in the feet or in any part of the body can be reduced.

References

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