Why can induce muscle cramps in my feet so easily?
January 19, 2007 12:25 AM   Subscribe

I can induce foot cramps really easily - why?

I've always been able to induce foot cramps very easily.

All I have to do is either curl my big toe down - more like I'm trying to point the second joint down than curl it, and the big muscle in the arch locks up tight and hurts. If I sort of point my toes together as if they were going into a narrow toe shoe and hold them there, more muscles across my feet lock up.

It also can happen when I am kneeling down, because of the angle my toes are pushed into.

Now, this doesn't worry me. It can be stopped pretty easily, and I even find myself doing it consciously while lying in bed (the tendons kind of creak back into relaxation as it ends, and it feels cool!). It's also not a terrible pain, and though I'm not a masochist I kind of enjoy the experience.

I just wonder why this should be. My feet have done it for as long as I can remember, I have a balanced diet, walk a fair bit and don't have any real health issues. Unwanted cramps are pretty rare, and not very severe.

Does anyone else share this weird foot cramp problem, or have an explanation for it? I've looked around and not seen much information other than about general muscle cramps
posted by tomble to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have it, don't like it, reminds me of the leg cramps I get in my sleep and can't get rid of easily, no explanation for it. Maybe it's a not-so-great nerve control issue based on the feet being so far from the spinal column?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:34 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Try some potassium supplements, or a banana.
posted by kindall at 12:35 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

That used to happen to me until I figured out how to avoid it -- I don't like the feeling. I figured it was a normal byproduct of foot tendon systems and more or less forgot about it.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:38 AM on January 19, 2007

Have it (slightly less easily induced, but more painful). More potassium does help but doesn't eliminate the problem. Seems like more calcium helps too but I don't have real data on that, just a feeling.

Personally, I always thought they came from the foot damage I did during years of ice skating-- but if the others with it haven't done any such damage, maybe it's just a genetic predisposition?

They're easy enough to stretch out, though, and only really bug me when it happens while I swim (sucks to release them mid-water).

Personally, I'm not too concerned about it-- and I shouldn't think you should be, either. (But hey, you could bug your friendly local podiatrist if you'd like a more medical answer).
posted by nat at 12:44 AM on January 19, 2007

Yes, I can do this too. And not so much on purpose...because what if I just wanted to curl my toes for fun? The cramp comes with the curling, no control over it.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 12:45 AM on January 19, 2007

Just about everybody gets cramps. There are several different kinds, a couple of which I know about: the overexertion type, and 'night' or 'rest' cramps (what I presume the op is writing about).
Some light stretching will usually prevent the onset of the spasms that lead to cramps.
My mother had to deal with real painful leg cramps as she got older, and the stretching before bedtime really helped.
posted by artdrectr at 12:57 AM on January 19, 2007

Magnesium's good too. More green and leafy things for you!
posted by flabdablet at 1:06 AM on January 19, 2007

Cheap & easy: Potassium & magnesium. Magnesium is the overlooked partner to calcium, and functions in relaxing the muscle. I had an easy-to-cramp foot too for years, and it got worse and worse. Then it got to where I couldn't bend my toes, and then it turned into regular calf cramps where I would wake up in intense pain. Doctors blew it off and said "it happens."

Fast forward to now where I've learned some of the basics of vitamins & minerals, and my legs & feet work normally again with no cramps. There is plenty of information about this sort of thing out there, and maybe it's not foot-specific, but a muscle cramp is a muscle cramp.

Potassium can help tremendously, and should be the first line of action. But don't neglect magnesium intake. Our diets just don't give us enough of some things, because factory farming methods have stripped the soil of much of the minerals. Fortunately, both Potassium and Magnesium supplements are cheap, and both are also pretty easy to get in foods if you seek it out. But avoid the Magnesium Oxide supplements. They are poorly absorbed.

And no, I don't sell supplements or books or anything like that. I just sought out a solution to the same problem that got worse, and it turned out to be cheap and effective. I learned a lot from Bill Sardi's book "The New Truth about Vitamins and Minerals" and the book "The Magnesium Factor," although the latter says to use Magnesium Oxide though later research showed the Oxide form is poorly absorbed. There's also a very informative book by Betty Kamen specific to Potassium, called "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Potassium but Were too Tired to Ask."
posted by Katravax at 1:10 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get this too. I can induce it much the same way as the OP, but it can also happen spontaneously. It seems to come and go though - hasn't happened for weeks.

No idea what causes it, and I've not found any diet or other correlations.
posted by crocomancer at 1:12 AM on January 19, 2007

I used to surprise myself with the toe-curl foot cramp dance many mornings when instinctively stretching while waking up. Eventually I discovered that I could get the same amount of morning stretch into my feet by pointing my toes up toward my shins rather than pointing them down into cramp-land. I haven't had a foot cramp since!
posted by rhizome at 1:14 AM on January 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

I discovered that one on my own feet many years ago, and I always thought it was kind of strange. It's almost the same experience for me, where if I do it for a short period of time and release it feels kind of neat and goes back to normal fairly quickly, but if I curl down for longer it starts to cramp up and hurt more and more. The longer I curl down, the more it cramps, and the harder it is to get it to release.

I actually hadn't done this in years, and never knew it happened to other people. Strange.
posted by bigtex at 4:08 AM on January 19, 2007

I get them all the time and have a very potassium & magnesium-rich diet.

However, I also have very poor lower-extremity circulation.

Is that your problem?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:15 AM on January 19, 2007

I thought everyone was like this.

Great, one more thing to worry about.
posted by skryche at 5:10 AM on January 19, 2007

I consulted my doctor about my very painful foot/leg cramps, and recommended keeping a good balance of potassium/magnesium/calcium via diet, as others have mentioned. But also told me I needed more quinine. It's in tonic water, and just adding a glass or two a month has helped quite a bit.
posted by librarianamy at 5:31 AM on January 19, 2007

The OP is not asking for remedies to relieve the cramps. He's asking whether others can induce them at will.

I think this is something everyone can do.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:49 AM on January 19, 2007

Yep. I can do it too, and like the OP, I sometimes do it on purpose. I think it's the pain and the relief of making it go away that's kind of...I don't know, fun or something.

With my feet, I can bend the big toe down until it starts cramping, and then it kind of takes over. Yee haw!

Weird. I've never actually thought about it before. That's why I love MeFi...reading about what freaks we all are! :)
posted by Bud Dickman at 6:55 AM on January 19, 2007

Vitamin E

whoa, deja vu, man.

I used to be able to make my leg cramp up easily, which I saw as a bad thing. Now that I take the above steps, it's not so easy. I don't know if I still can do it. I can't imagine why I'd try.
posted by bink at 7:13 AM on January 19, 2007

Yes! I thought it was just me!

I have trouble pointing my toes during stretch exercises - the toes just start to curl under of their own accord and I get a cramp through the arch and then continuing up into my calf if I let them stay curled. I end up having to put my foot flat on the floor to keep them uncurled for a bit. It's painful and not enjoyable.

And thank you to the people who have posted advice on making it stop - I would really like it if this didn't happen.
posted by cadge at 7:26 AM on January 19, 2007

Yeah, I have that too. I actually induce foot cramps on purpose just for the sweet relief of bending my toes the other way and having it go away. This is because I am insane.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:02 AM on January 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

M.C. Lo-Carb! I do that too!!! I've asked tons of my friends if they ever give themselves foot cramps on purpose and they look at me like I'm crazy. It feels so good when it goes away though, your muscles creak like the timber of a ship in rough water.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:19 AM on January 19, 2007

I've noticed this foot cramp thing before, too. Never thought it might be related to diet. Great post!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:25 AM on January 19, 2007

Wasn't there a thread about this, like, yesterday?
posted by loiseau at 8:51 AM on January 19, 2007

Just another person chiming in to say I'm glad to know I'm not a complete freak for being able to do that too.
posted by mindless progress at 8:56 AM on January 19, 2007

Yesterday's foot cramp post.

I get them and can give them to myself too, never thought too much about it until I learned other people don't get them. I always assumed that it had something to do with the arch of the foot, since at least one person I know who doesn't get them has flat feet. Interesting about the supplements though.

Sometimes they're fun in the it hurts so good way, other times they suck completely in the omg my foot ow ow ow way. Either way, when it's over it's bliss. Glad to know I'm not alone!
posted by sarahmelah at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2007

I can do this too, and like some of the other wackos here (I use that term with the utmost respect) I think it's kind of neat. In fact, I'm doing it right now while I type!

I have terrible plantar fasciatis, and I've assumed there was a connection.
posted by altcountryman at 6:46 PM on January 19, 2007

My wife's foot doctor says that inability to cause this cramp voluntarily can indicate a stretched tendon or muscle with lack of tone.

She had a tendon op, and has to deliberately cause this cramp each day to give the muscle the tone it needs to maintain the tension she needs.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 10:30 PM on January 19, 2007

I remember smoking weed with the quarterback of the then-undefeated football team and he was inducing calf-cramps and enjoying it. So high.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:55 AM on January 20, 2007

I can sometimes cause this with my second smallest toe on my left foot (my "ring" toe?). Most people's feet are underdeveloped from years of atrophy in shoes, and weak muscles and tendons contribute to cramps. I never really enjoyed the sensation, and I've gotten it to almost completely stop.

If anyone's interested in getting their cramps to stop, I've discovered that going barefoot is the best remedy. Going barefoot often on soft and uneven surfaces like dirt, grass, and sand strengthens the weak muscles and tendons that cause the cramps. If you really grip with your toes when you walk, you'll notice the results very quickly.
posted by tipthepizzaguy at 8:53 AM on January 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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