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5 Causes of Toes Cramps—and How to Finally Make Them Stop

Most of the time, toe cramps have a few common causes and can be treated with DIY interventions like stretches and diet changes.

Next time your toes are cramping and curling, try these DIY remedies.


By Jordan Davidson, Prevention

You know that strange thing when your toes start twitching and involuntarily twisting around each other? Or when you wake up in the middle of the night with your foot flexed, immovable, and shooting with pain? What is with those cramps?
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"They're usually a warning that you're overdoing it," says Charles Kim, MD, a musculoskeletal rehab specialist at NYU Langone's Rusk Rehabilitation. Most of the time, toe cramps have a few common causes and can be treated with some DIY interventions. "But if you feel cramping getting worse and not relenting, you should talk to a doctor." Frequent foot cramping may signal an underlying medical condition involving the circulatory or central nervous system, so see your physician if your muscle spasms make you uneasy or interfere with your daily life.


What causes toe cramps?


Toe cramps can have various causes. These are a few of the most common:


Dehydration

[post_ads]Toe cramps have various triggers, but overuse, dehydration, and mineral deficiencies (mainly, potassium, calcium, and magnesium) are some of the most common culprits, according to Dr. Kim. When you exercise, you sweat out the minerals, or electrolytes, your muscles need to function properly. And that deficiency causes muscle contractions or spasms, which we call cramps. "If you've gone for a long run, overexerted yourself, or overtrained, toe cramps are your muscles telling you to dial it back because they can't take the strain," Dr. Kim says.


Too-tight shoes

Toe cramps also frequently stem from unnecessary strain or restricted blood flow from tight-fitting shoes. If you can't wiggle your toes or your toes start to tingle after you've put on your shoes, they're too tight.


Aging

Age, of course, is not kind to your feet either. Toe cramps often appear after 50, when bones lose calcium and muscles lose elasticity and strain to support your body. Also, "as we age, our nerve and vascular function aren't as robust as it used to be," says Dr. Kim. "That leads to cramping because your nerves, which provide nutrition and messages to your muscles, aren't fully up to the task."


[post_ads]First, the bad news: There's no magic cure or drug you can take for toe cramps. The FDA no longer recommends prescribing quinine (a drug used to treat malaria and once upon a time, muscle cramps) because of controversy over its efficacy and safety. And research shows that magnesium supplements seem to make no difference at all. Now, the good news: You can reduce and prevent toe cramps, assuming you don't have an underlying condition. Here are four fixes worth trying:


Make sure you're wearing the right shoes

The path to fewer painful spasms begins with your shoes, says Phyllis Ragley, DPM, a podiatrist in Lawrence, Kansas. "It's crucial to find a pair that's right for your body's unique mechanics." Dr. Ragley advises choosing a shoe that fits your arch and is neither too stiff nor too flexible. "The right shoe should feel like you're walking on air," says Dr. Kim. If you've been dressing in high heels, try switching to flats.


Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is essential when it comes to treating foot and toe cramps, says Dr. Kim. He recommends replenishing electrolytes after exercising with a sports drink or an electrolyte replacement tablet, and regularly eating foods high in potassium and calcium.

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Work out wisely

If you're exercising a ton, scale it back—you could be putting unnecessary stress on your muscles. And if you're not exercising enough, start to move. Being sedentary atrophies muscles and decreases circulation. "Marathons are terrible for you, but so is not exercising," Dr. Kim says. "Everything in moderation."


Stretching well

Dr. Ragley also recommends non-weight-bearing stretches like wiggling your toes, spreading them out, and pointing and flexing your feet. "It's crucial as we age to move the feet around in a gentle way to maintain a range of motion," she says. "And adding some massages and warm foot baths will help to relieve the muscles."

See more at: Prevention

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Health Magazine: 5 Causes of Toes Cramps—and How to Finally Make Them Stop
5 Causes of Toes Cramps—and How to Finally Make Them Stop
Most of the time, toe cramps have a few common causes and can be treated with DIY interventions like stretches and diet changes.
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