Toe cramps are characterized by a harmless yet painful tightening of the muscles in the toes. The cramping usually happens suddenly and takes some time to dissipate.
Muscle cramps can affect any part of the body, toes being no exception. You know you have a toe cramp when the muscles in one or more of your toes suddenly and involuntary tighten and contract. The cramping is usually sharp and painful (sometimes descripted as a “knotting”) and it may seem impossible to get the muscle to relax. Some cramps last only a few seconds while others can last several minutes. Some toe cramps cause the toes to curl over each other.
There are many causes of toe muscle strain, the most common being dehydration and over-exertion during physical activity. Both can cause the electrolytes in your body to diminish, which can lead to muscle cramps.
Other causes include wearing shoes that cause strain to the toes, a mineral deficiency (specifically having too little calcium, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin D), poor circulation, obesity, diuretics, cholesterol-lowering medications like statins and nicotinic acid, medical conditions that cause peripheral neuropathy, liver disease, pregnancy and fatigue.
People of all ages can be affected by toe cramps, but they become more common over the age of 80.
Treatment and Prevention
Muscle cramps are generally considered harmless, but because the spasms can cause severe pain, there are a number of recommended actions you can do to cut down on their frequency. They include:
- Stretching the toes on a daily basis, especially before and after physical activity
- Ingesting foods that contain calcium, magnesium and sodium (these include dairy products, spinach, broccoli, almonds and bananas)
- Trying not to over-exert yourself during exercise, sports and other types of physical activity
- Avoiding uncomfortable shoes that create strain on your toes
- Being sure to break in new shoes slowly until they’re comfortable
- Drinking plenty of healthy fluids like water
- Avoiding foods and drinks high in sugar and caffeine
At the onset of a cramp, you should stop what you’re doing and gently try massaging your toes as well as stretching the muscles by wiggling your toes back and forth. Do not continue with physical activity during a cramp, as you could tear a muscle.
If you experience foot or toe cramps on a daily basis, you should visit your doctor or a podiatrist. While they are considered a benign condition, they can be caused by underlying health problems.
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