It’s an old slang phrase, but the idea of someone or something “cramping your style” paints an interesting picture. Cramps tighten and squeeze you, sometimes stopping you painfully in your tracks. Literal cramps are a bit more uncomfortable than figurative ones that affect your style, however, as anyone who has woken in the middle of the night with a foot cramp can attest. Fortunately, if you know the causes of cramps, you can help prevent them and avoid the pain—whether literal or figurative.
Actual foot cramps can have multiple potential causes. They are the result of an unexpected muscle spasm in your foot. The tissue fibers contract suddenly and don’t relax for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. This can cause sharp pain and hard knots in your foot.
So why do your muscles spasm like that? Well, sometimes there isn’t an obvious cause, but there are lots of factors that affect muscle function and cramping. Here are just a few of the most common causes of cramps in your feet:
- Fatigue or strain – Overworked, exhausted foot muscles are more likely to spasm painfully, particularly if you continue to push them when they already fatigued.
- Dehydration – Your muscles need sufficient water to function correctly. When you get dehydrated, you’re more likely to have foot cramps.
- Naturally tight muscles – Muscles that are naturally tight, or that don’t get stretched or exercised enough, are more likely to cramp when they are used.
- Preexisting medical conditions – Some medical conditions like diabetes, liver problems, and thyroid diseases increase your risk for cramping.
- Insufficient minerals – Muscles need potassium, magnesium, and calcium to work. Without enough, they are prone to cramps.
- Impaired circulation – With insufficient blood flow, muscles get oxygen deprived and cramp painfully when you’re active.
- Pinched nerves – Nerve damage inhibits messages from your brain to your muscles, which can contribute to cramping issues.