Muscle cramps affect everyone at one time or another, especially in your feet and legs. Whether you are plugging along with your daily activities or an athlete training for an event, leg and foot cramps may have affected you at some point.
What exactly is a “cramp”? When we want to perform an activity, there is a conscious effort to do that last leg curl or calf raise, or cross that finish line at a sprint speed. These are completely voluntary movements. However a cramp occurs when there is an involuntary movement, or when the nerves activate a muscle group without you initiating the movement. Your leg or foot "cramps" up, and you certainly don't want it to happen.
There are many theories as to why cramps occur. The most common cause may be dehydration. Exertion from extreme exercise or even tired legs at the end of an especially long day may leave the muscles exhausted. Decreased fluid intake may leave your body with an imbalance of salt and essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which in turn affects your leg muscles. Other times the culprit may be certain medications which list leg cramps as a known side effect.
If leg cramps occur frequently or after a predictive amount of time, it is important to see a specialist to check blood flow. Sometimes the cause may be due to an irregularity in blood flow, due to a blockage in the arteries or due to a problem with varicose veins or venous insufficiency.
The after effects of cramps may cause soreness in your leg which may actually be tiny tears in the muscle fibers. This may cause lingering soreness the next day. If you think this may be happening, it is important to see your doctor in order to make an accurate diagnosis and perhaps prescribe physical therapy, icing, anti inflammtories, or alternative treatments at Prairie Path Foot and Ankle such as EPAT (extracorporeal pulse activated treatment). Our doctors can get you started on this treatment after a brief visit to diagnose the problem.
The good news is that cramps can be alleviated with gentle massage or stretching out your foot or leg. It also helps to keep hydrated and to replenish electrolytes before, during, and after a workout. When soreness persists, trying an anti-inflammatory medication, icing, and stretching can help alleviate discomfort as well.