If you have experienced leg or foot cramps, you may wonder if it is a sign of something serious, especially if you have a medical condition such as diabetes. There are many potential causes of leg and foot cramps—some are serious, and some are not. It is important to talk to your podiatrist, so they can make the proper diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment based on your specific needs.
Leg and Foot Cramps: Common or Serious?
A foot or leg cramp isn’t that unusual, and most people experience one at some point in their lives. While having a muscle involuntarily contract can be painful, it’s usually harmless. However, it’s important to know when to see a podiatrist for these inconvenient, painful episodes.
Common Causes of Leg and Foot Cramps
- Vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins
- Poor circulation in legs due to diabetes or other medical conditions
- Overuse or injury to the muscles
- Obesity or being overweight
- Shoes that don’t fit or wearing high heels
- Low levels of physical activity
- Constant standing for long periods of time on hard surfaces
- Nerve compression from sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time
For those with diabetes, there are more serious causes of foot or leg cramps, including:
- Poor circulation. Poor circulation means that blood isn't flowing properly through the body, which can cause the muscles in the legs and feet to cramp up due to oxygen deprivation. This is especially common among patients who suffer from peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition where plaque buildup in the arteries restricts blood flow.
- Diabetic nerve damage or neuropathy. Diabetic nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, is another leading cause of foot or leg cramps in those with diabetes. This occurs when high levels of glucose in the blood damage nerve endings over time, resulting in symptoms such as numbness, tingling sensations, and painful shooting pains that often result in involuntary muscle spasms such as foot and leg cramps.
Diagnosing and Treating Foot and Leg Cramps
Your podiatrist will ask about your medical history as well as your lifestyle habits to make an accurate diagnosis about your foot/leg cramping. You may also need additional tests, such as an X-ray, to check for any signs of injury or problems with your bones, nerves, or muscles. Your doctor may also order blood tests to check for any deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals that could be causing the muscle cramping.
There is no specific treatment for foot and leg cramps other than addressing the problem once it occurs. For example, if you experience cramps in your feet or legs while exercising or engaging in physical activity, try stopping what you are doing and stretching your calves or feet until the pain subsides. You can also gently massage the affected area until the cramp relaxes.
Some patients find relief from muscle cramps by taking an over-the-counter medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen; however, it is essential to speak with your doctor before taking any medication for this purpose since some treatments may interact negatively with diabetes medications or other drugs that you are already taking.
Foot and leg cramps affect many people with diabetes, especially those who have chronic nerve damage or poor circulation. If you have recently been experiencing cramping in your feet or legs, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it.
Three Key Questions to Ask Your Podiatrist
- What is causing my cramping? There are many factors that can cause foot and leg cramps, including nerve damage, dehydration, poor circulation, and certain medications. Understanding the cause of the cramping can help you choose an appropriate treatment plan.
- Should I make any lifestyle changes? Your doctor may suggest making lifestyle changes that can help reduce the frequency of foot and leg cramps. These may include increasing physical activity, eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol and/or caffeine, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, stretching regularly, and wearing supportive shoes. These small changes can make a big difference in reducing symptoms of foot and leg cramps.
- Are there any medications available to help with cramping? Depending on your individual medical history and needs, your doctor may suggest certain medications that could help reduce the frequency of your foot and leg cramps. These can include over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium as well as prescription medications such as muscle relaxants.
Tips for Preventing Foot and Leg Cramps
It's important to talk with your doctor about any underlying conditions that could be causing the foot or leg cramping, so they can develop an appropriate plan for prevention going forward. In addition, there are some tips that can help prevent future episodes of feet or leg cramps:
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially during hot weather
- Eat foods high in B vitamins such as eggs and dark leafy greens
- Stretch regularly, especially before engaging in physical activity
- Avoid sitting or standing still in one position for too long
- Wear comfortable shoes when standing or walking
- Add regular exercise into your daily routine
- See a podiatrist regularly if you have diabetes
Contact Our Texas Podiatrist Today!
If you are diabetic and experiencing foot or leg cramps or are having cramps for no apparent reason, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for a consultation. We can evaluate your condition and determine the cause of your cramping, so we can create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs. To request an appointment, please contact our Grapevine or Keller office by filling out our convenient contact form online or calling our office at 817-481-4000.