Yes, it’s true: legs are not feet or ankles. When it comes to holistic podiatric care, however, the legs can be intimately connected to the feet—and we don’t just mean physically. Certain problems in the legs can herald developing problems in the feet as well. That is why we take interest in conditions such as frequent leg cramps; odds are good that what is causing pain in your legs may be affecting your feet as well.
Causes of Cramps
A cramp happens when a muscle suddenly and severely tightens, lasting for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. You might also have heard a cramp referred to as a charley horse.
The legs are one of the most common locations for cramping, with the calf a specifically popular target. An occasional cramp every once in a while is likely not a worry. It can sometimes stem from a lack of minerals such as potassium or calcium, exposure to cold, or as a reaction to certain medications.
Leg cramps that happen relatively frequently, however, or as a result of activity, can be a sign of an underlying medical problem. When cramping is experienced during exercise, it may be the result of blood flow to the area being unable to provide the support muscles need. This is professionally referred to as intermittent claudication, and can be a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition in which blood vessels become restricted through plaque buildup.
With intermittent claudication, the pain tends to go away once you begin to rest, but can gradually last longer and grow worse if the blood vessels continue to narrow. The feet may also begin to cramp or hurt, and nerves within the feet can even die from lack of nourishment.
Another potential cause of leg cramps is a compressed nerve. This also tends to cause flare-ups of pain during activity.
Taking Care of Tightness
If cramps are a frequent problem, it is important to find the underlying cause. Factors such as mineral deficiencies may have to be eliminated, and tests might be needed to determine whether PAD or poor circulation are to blame.
Depending on the reason for the cramping, different treatments may be recommended. Changes to diet, hydration, and exercise may be suggested. Although exercise might cause pain, continuing to condition the muscles under a well-tailored program can help the muscles adjust to less oxygen and reduce cramping over time.
If leg cramps are a problem at night, medications can be prescribed to help relax the muscles and increase the odds of better sleep. Additional medications for blood pressure and other factors might also be part of an accompanying PAD treatment.
If cramping is regularly affecting your legs and feet, the worst thing you can do is shrug it off as a “part of life.” This pain is not normal, and can be sign of a problem that needs to be treated now to prevent it from becoming worse. Dr. Timothy Barry at Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper can help get to the root of your cramps and find the best way to address them within your needs. Contact our office at (812) 481-7200 to schedule an appointment.