Foot and leg cramps can be caused by all sorts of things. Nighttime cramps are usually a sudden spasm, or tightening, of the muscles in the calf, arch and toes. They often occur just as you are relaxing and falling asleep or when waking up. The cause can be mysterious in many cases.

Muscle cramps can be caused by many condition and activities.

Here are 10 of the most common:

  1. Exercising, injury or overuse of muscles
  2. Standing on hard surfaces or sitting in an awkward position for a long time.
  3. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PVD)
  4. Abnormal foot biomechanics like flat feet or really high arches
  5. Kidney or thyroid  disease
  6. Multiple sclerosis
  7. Peripheral neuropathy
  8. Lack of potassium, calcium, magnesium and other mineral in your blood
  9. Dehydration
  10. Many medications including diuretics, birth control pills, statin, steroids and antipsychotics

How can you eliminate the cramping?

  1. Massage and stretch the muscles involved
  2. Soak your feet in warm water or take a warm bath
  3. Stretch the areas
  4. Take a walk
  5. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Advil or Aleve
  6. Drink plenty of fluids, especially an electrolyte solution like Gatorade can be helpful
  7. Wear supportive shoe gear and talk to your doctor about arch supports or custom orthotics if you feel it is foot fatigue related

How can you prevent muscle cramps?

  1. Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  2. Limit alcohol and caffeine, especially on hot days
  3. Eat healthy foods rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium
  4. Take a multivitamin every day
  5. Exercise every day, especially walking, running or riding a bike to move your muscles
  6. Stretch on a regular basis, as well as before and after exercise
  7. Don’t suddenly increase your exercise regimen. Don’t increase by more than 10% each week.
  8. Talk to your doctor about any new medications that you are taking that may be causing the cramping.

If the cramping keeps occurring even though you are doing all of these things, a thorough exam is needed to assess for peripheral arterial disease, peripheral neuropathy, thyroid and liver disease as well.