By: Don Penven, CEO
Foot arch cramps are nothing new to this
ole codger. It seems like my feet are trying
to get back at me for something—some
mistreatment on my part.
Foot cramps seem to fall into the same category as a charley horse in the leg muscles. These muscle spasms most often occur in the wee hours of the morning and they are no less troublesome than pain in the legs.
Muscle cramps in the legs, feet and hands are not really uncommon. According to MedicineNet.com somewhere around 95% of the U.S. population will suffer at least one foot cramp during their lifetime.
I use a tool on the internet supplied by Google that analyzes what people are searching for. Nearly 50,000 people searched the term “Foot Cramps” during the past month. That represents a lot of suffering.
A muscle cramp, as defined by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, indicates that a muscle cramp is an involuntary contraction of muscles that do not relax. Cramps can affect any muscle under voluntary control (skeletal muscle). Cramps can involve part or all of a muscle, or several muscles in a group.
Muscle spasms such as this occur mostly in the extremities, especially the front and back of the legs and the arches of the feet, but may also occur in the arms, hands, stomach area and the rib cage. These muscle contractions can occur at any time, but many sufferers report this spasmodic activity while sleeping. It is thought that some people are predisposed toward getting these painful attacks and they happen to people of virtually any age, however, persona over 65 tend to experience a reoccurrence of muscle spasms more frequently than younger patients.
Muscle cramps can occur even after simple, non-strenuous physical activity, and they are quite common among endurance athletes while performing strenuous physical exertion. People who are ill, overweight and those taking certain medications tend to experience more frequent attacks.
While medical science cannot pinpoint the exact cause of muscle cramping, there is strong evidence that over exertion, depletion of salt and certain minerals, (electrolytes) like potassium and magnesium.
Another type of common muscle cramp is the nocturnal or resting cramp, which happens in your calf or toe muscles when you are resting or sleeping. However, the exact cause of muscle cramps remains a mystery, although some researchers believe inadequate stretching and muscle fatigue leads to abnormalities in mechanisms that control muscle contraction.
The unfortunate part about this bodily condition is that there are no specific medications, which, when taken over time, would eliminate the problem. Let’s face it, we can’t cure the common cold so why bother with a malady that generally lasts just a few minutes. Most certainly the big drug manufacturers are not likely to spend millions on research for a fleeting pain in the leg.
In fact, many health care providers believe that part of the problem, although an indirect influence on the problem, is some of the medications we take. In particular, hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic, can be blamed for removing the very minerals necessary to maintain the electrolyte balance in our blood stream. Statins like Crestor and Lipitor may also contribute to the mystery of the cramping muscles.
The term “Charley Horse”, is how many of us describe these afflictions.
Treatment for muscle cramps occurring in any part of the body are most effectively handled with self-care. While a number of home-remedies have appeared over the years, immediate care of a knotted up muscle may be handled by gentle massage until it relaxes. No… I’m not giving you medical advice. I am not in any way affiliated with the health care profession—except as a patient.
Other articles on this blog “suggest” certain home remedies, some of which I have tried myself. The best advice I can offer is if you are suffering from muscle spasm attacks several times a month—make an appointment with your family doctor. He can have complete blood tests run that will determine if your blood is low in potassium or magnesium as well as to detect other problems. And he can recommend certain dietary changes that may also help to reduce the frequency of muscle spasms. After all. leg, foot and hand cramps could be an indicator of a more serious problem.
A Charley Horse is one horse you don’t want to ride!