Lefort Podiatry | Muscle Cramps
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Muscle Cramps

Muscle Cramps are spasms that occur most commonly in the calf muscles behind the lower leg and in the small foot muscles on the bottom of the foot.

 

It seems out of nowhere the attack will occur with pain ranging from mild to moderately severe. In some cases just staying in bed and allowing the spasm to run its course is enough. Others find that when a night cramp occurs it can be so painful that it forces them out of bed in order to stretch the muscle and relieve the pain.

 

Most muscle cramps occurring in the foot and leg are known as idiopathic, (unknown origin).

In general, cramping commonly occurs in muscles that are overused whereby the muscles develop knots (see Myofascial Pain and Dry Needling). These knots make the muscle tight and more sensitive to stretch. As the muscle knots are basically muscle fibres under constant low level contraction, the entire muscle has a lower threshold to muscle firing, often resulting in cramping with certain movements that cause overstretching.

 

There are also some relatively common medical conditions that may contribute to muscle cramping dehydration, conditions that cause alterations in the balance of salts in the bloodstream (such as a high or low sodium or potassium level), pregnancy, an untreated under-active thyroid gland and peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of the leg arteries which causes poor circulation). Some medicines can also cause cramps as a side-effect, or make cramps occur more often include diuretics (water pills), nifedipine, cimetidine, salbutamol, terbutaline, lithium, clofibrate, phenothiazines, and nicotinic acid.

Assuming that the above medical and medication related causes have been excluded, there are a number of available treatments including:

  • Dry Needling and Stretching
  • Magnesium – this is a mineral that stabilises muscle membranes. A supplement of 500mg twice daily is common or increasing dietary sources of magnesium including whole grains, wheat germ, seed, seafood and nuts.
  • Potassium – It is generally safer to increase dietary intake of potassium such as grains, fruits, beans, lean meat and fruits such as bannanas rather than taking potassium supplements.
  • Heat and gentle stretching before bed.
  • Quinine – available as either a tablet or as quinine water (tonic water) and is thought to be very effective for resistant nocturnal cramps. Quinine however is contraindicated in women who are either pregnant or planning pregnancy.
  • Vitamin E – tablet form dose of 800iu daily can be effective but should not be taken by those on anti-coagulant therapy such as Warfarin as it may increase bleeding times.
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