Normally, the fibers in a muscle never all move at the same time but alternate with each other. Muscle cramps in your legs, calves, or toes are caused by all the muscle fibers of a certain muscle or muscle group suddenly contracting all at the same time, which is actually not the intention.
The muscles contract with full force on contraction, causing typical stabbing cramp pain. This cramping can also cause limbs to move uncontrollably and contract painfully. Below you will find 9 tips with which you can prevent muscle cramps in your legs, calves, and toes and breakthrough cramps in the meantime…
Where do people most often suffer from muscle cramps?
Muscle cramps can in principle occur in any muscle. For example, some people regularly experience strange, small cramps in the muscles around the eyes or in the heart muscle. The following types of muscle cramps are much more common:
- Cramping feet
- Cramp in neck
- Muscle cramps in legs & calves
- Cramping fingers
- Cramp in back
- Shoulder cramps
- Cramps in arm & hand
- Cramp in your toes
- Stomach cramps, intestinal cramps & heart cramps
However, the places where muscle cramps manifest themselves most often and most violently are the legs, calves, feet, and toes!
9 tips to prevent muscle cramps
Because muscle cramps can be extremely painful, countless people are looking for ways to prevent or cure cramps. Below you will find 9 practical & effective tips to prevent leg cramps, muscle cramps in your feet, and cramps in your calves:
1) Muscle cramps due to mineral deficiency
Cramps – such as leg cramps & calf cramps – can easily be caused by an electrolyte disorder or vitamin deficiency. It is therefore crucial that you get the right vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to prevent cramps in your legs, calves, and feet.
The following nutrients can help prevent cramping: vitamin B complex, vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and sodium. A shortage of these nutrients in your blood can actually cause your muscles to cramp! If you often suffer from muscle cramps, have a blood test to test for deficiencies in vitamins & minerals. Perhaps a magnesium tablet already works wonders to remedy your cramps.
2) Fluid Disruption Causes Cramps
Cramps in the leg, calf, neck, foot, or arm are in many cases caused by poor internal fluid or fluid balance. You can restore your fluid balance and thus prevent muscle fiber cramping by:
Drink plenty of water (especially if you exercise and/or sweat a lot); eat less salt (especially with excessive salt consumption); eat more salt in case of a sodium deficiency; avoid diuretics such as water tablets; to moderate alcohol consumption. As soon as your fluid balance is restored, you will be guaranteed to experience less muscle cramps.
3) Cramping due to incorrect posture
Many people suffer from muscle cramps in the calves, cramping of the toes or cramps in the feet during the night. In many cases, however, these nighttime muscle cramps are already provoked during the day.
Nighttime cramps in your legs are in many cases caused by adopting a wrong standing or sitting position during the day. Standing in the same position or sitting behind a desk for long periods of time, in particular, promotes muscle cramps. You can therefore help prevent cramps by regularly going for a walk, which gives your muscle fibers the opportunity to relax and “reset”.
4) Muscle Cramps With Exercise
Exercise plays an important role in the development & prevention of cramps. Muscle cramps in the legs, calves, feet, back, or neck are in many cases caused by too much, too little, or incorrect exercise.
Some people experience pain around 24 hrs after particularly strenuous exercise or a new activity. In this case, DOMs, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, is the likely culprit for sore muscles after your exercise. The pain is caused by the muscles not being used to working in that way, and so will be sore for a day or so until they are more developed.
If you do little or no exercise, you have an increased chance of cramps. However, if you exercise too often and for too long, your muscles will become exhausted, acidified, and/or overloaded.
This can also cause cramps in the legs/calves. If you want to prevent cramps, then you should exercise regularly, but not excessively often or for long. Moreover, it is important to move in a controlled and ergonomically responsible manner. If desired, a coach, trainer or instructor can advise and guide you in this.
5) High Blood Pressure Causes Muscle Cramps
Cramps in your legs, muscle cramps in your calves, and cramping in your neck are in many cases caused by increased blood pressure or hypertension. Your blood pressure is especially higher if you eat a lot of salt, exercise little, and are overweight…
Excessive alcohol consumption, certain medicines, and the contraceptive pill can also cause hypertension and thus promote cramps in calves, legs, and feet. In short: if you often suffer from muscle cramps, have your blood pressure measured!
You can ask your doctor about this if you wish.
6) Muscle Cramps Due to Low Blood Sugar
Your blood sugar level refers to the amount of glucose circulating in your bloodstream. When the amount of glucose in your blood is too low, it is called hypoglycemia or a lowered blood sugar level. Cramps in your muscles can be caused by low blood sugar.
If your muscle cramps are caused by hypoglycemia, a little sugar can help. In some cases, you can simply help prevent cramps in your muscles (calf cramps, leg cramps, neck cramps, etc.) by taking licorice, acidity, or chocolate.
7) Cold Can Cause Cramps
Cold is one of the main causes of muscle cramps. Cramps in your legs, calf cramps, and cramping of your feet, in particular, are often caused by cold. “Normal” cold (due to cold weather/lack of sunlight) is disastrous, but exposure to cold water, snow, or an icy surface is even worse.
In some cases, you can simply fight muscle cramps with heat. If you often suffer from cramps in your calves or feet, use thick bedding, warm nightclothes, a hot water bottle, slippers, or possibly an electric blanket during the night.
8) Cramps due to excessive muscle tension
Cramps in your muscles (legs, calves, feet, toes, neck, hand, fingers, etc.) are –directly or indirectly– always caused by excessive muscle tension. You can logically prevent excessive tension in your muscles by relaxing your muscles.
The annoying thing about cramps in your muscles is that it usually hurts a lot more when you relax. Nevertheless, repeatedly tensing and relaxing your cramping muscles is a perfect method to remedy your muscle cramps. Rubbing, stretching, or massaging your muscles warm can also break the tension reflex (and thus the muscle cramp).
9) Poor blood flow = muscle cramps
Muscle cramps in your toes are often caused by poor circulation in the feet or legs. The blood circulation in your leg muscles and foot muscles is usually disrupted by ill-fitting shoes or an unnatural sitting position. If you want to prevent cramps in your feet and toes, it is, therefore, better to wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes and sit neatly upright.
Poor blood flow restricts oxygen supply to your muscles, and oxygen deficiency causes cramps. Your blood circulation can deteriorate due to tight clothing, but also due to disorders in your vascular system. Even a meal can contribute to oxygen deficiency because when you’ve just eaten, an extra-large portion of your oxygen-rich blood will be pumped toward your stomach to aid digestion.
In particular, never wear high heels or tight boots for long periods of time if you regularly notice cramping in your calves or feet. Change your shoes regularly and don’t wear tight socks. In addition, pay attention to your sitting position… By sitting on your chair at 90-degree angles, your legs remain optimally supplied with blood and you prevent cramps in calves, feet, and toes. Do not cross your legs.
Possible solutions for cramp at a glance
In the case of regularly recurring (nightly) muscle cramps, it is especially important to identify and remove the underlying cause.
Are you not familiar with the cause of your cramps? Then here are the best tips, resources, and methods to prevent, treat or reduce muscle cramps :
- Watch what you eat; cramps are often related to food intolerance, for example to cow’s milk, gluten/wheat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine/theine, sulfite, or yeast
- Certain synthetic additives or E numbers (including coloring agents, flavor enhancers, and sweeteners) are also frequently linked to muscle cramps.
- Exposing cramping muscle to intense heat or heat: a hot pack, electric blanket, electric heating pad, water bottle or hot bath
- Supplement vitamins; especially vitamin B complex, vitamin D & vitamin E
- Drink (much) more water
- Walk uncovered enough in the sun so that your skin can absorb vitamin D3
- Take magnesium, potassium, calcium and/or zinc (preferably through natural food)
- Reduce sodium ( salt ) + exchange refined table salt for “whole” salt
- Sleep in an ergonomically shaped and adjustable bed with a high-quality mattress, pillow, and (wool) blanket.
- A little walk
- Review and adjust medication use in consultation with a doctor (including beta-blockers, diuretics, etc.)
- Switching from birth control pill.
- A knock sugar (or a few lozenges Dextro-tablet) foods.
- Minimize muscle overload & muscle acidity (lactic acid).
- Warming-up, cooling-down & especially stretching exercises before and after exercise.
- Always take 1 rest day between 2 sports days or training days.
- Wear thick, warm socks, especially in bed.
- Daytime never on barefoot running; so always put on shoes or slippers, even if you mainly have warm feet.
- Wear compression stockings, bandages, or stretch bandages around limbs that often cramp.
- Visit a professional masseur regularly
- If you suffer from muscle cramps due to heat or overheating, take a cold foot bath or stand on ice-cold tiles.
- Wear good footwear; many fashionable shoes cause a bad walking and standing posture and greatly encourage muscle cramps. You usually only notice this after you take off your shoes
- stop smoking; substances such as nicotine and tar impair blood flow to your muscles and significantly increase the risk of cramps
- Prevent starvation & malnutrition; exhaustion or defective conversion of glucose and glycogen in the muscles can lead to muscle cramps
- In consultation with a doctor very low-dose antipsychotics such as risperidone ( Risperdal )
Tip: See if a high-quality multivitamin supplement (from A to zinc) improves, then you immediately know whether your muscle cramp is related to a vitamin or mineral deficiency.
What can you do during a cramp?
During a cramp, it is especially pleasant to interrupt the occurring muscle reflex. You do this by, among other things:
- Careful and controlled stretching or stretching, so make your muscle longer
- Wiggle your toes up and down
- Massaging, rubbing + squeezing the cramping or cramped muscle
- Flip your feet up and down
- Stand on your toes and then on your heels
- If necessary, place a towel against the sole of your foot, grip one end of the towel with each hand and pull your foot/knee towar