Ever woke up in the middle of the night with an agonizing pain in your toe? Sudden muscle spasms or prolonged contractions of the muscles in the toes can occur due to an overambitious exercise program, dehydration, ill-fitted shoes, certain medications and a deficiency of important electrolytes like calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Being at the extreme end of the body and owing to the fact that the body fails to maintain a good blood flow to the feet and the toes, toes are far more susceptible to cramps than the rest of the body parts.
Reduced flow of blood to the toes leads to painful toe cramps and can affect anyone, regardless of their age. Even though, the pain lasts from only a few seconds to a few minutes, it can also leave an adult crying with pain. Listed below are a few preventive measures that can be taken to avoid toe cramps while working out or during a good night’s sleep.
Tips to Prevent Toe Cramps
Drink Lots of Water
Dehydration is one of the most potential causes of toe cramps, since depletion of adequate fluids from your body can tighten and shorten your muscles. Water is an essential part of the lymphatic fluid, which acts as a medium for the transportation of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium that play a pivotal role in muscle contraction and relaxation.
An imbalance in these electrolytes occurs due to the lack of sufficient water in the body, leading to toe cramps. Hence, keeping your body well hydrated by drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day can dramatically reduce your chances of experiencing toe cramps.
Do not Wear Ill-Fitted Shoes
Shoes that are too tight can restrict blood circulation to the toes and cause muscle cramps that last for a long time. Often, women wear high heels, which require them to elevate their ankles and change the position of their feet that in turn, can block blood flow to the toes.Shoes that are extremely tight in the toe area crams the toes and keeps them confined to the corners of the shoes, thus making toe cramps far more prevalent than finger cramps. This reduces the supply of oxygen to the muscles, thereby leading to an involuntary and a prolonged contraction that does not relax immediately. Hence, it is important to wear shoes which have a broad toe box to prevent toe cramps.
Ensure that You Have Adequate Levels of Mineral Supply
Frequent toe cramps can also be an indication of mineral deficiencies in the body, caused by an imbalance of electrolytes that are required for the proper functioning of muscles. Potassium, magnesium and sodium are the most important electrolytes required for promoting smooth muscle contraction.
They generate electrical currents, within and outside of the muscle cells, thus stimulating muscle contraction and relaxation. Hence, a sharp decline in the levels of electrolytes through the loss of essential fluids in the body can drastically affect the functioning of the muscular system in the body. Over exertion during exercise can lead to an electrolyte imbalance and hence replacing the electrolyte levels through the consumption of water or sports drink during exercise is one of the most important steps for avoiding toe cramps.
Hypokalemia or low potassium levels can also occur due to medical conditions like kidney disorders, diarrhea, vomiting, usage of antibiotics and diuretics, etc. Being rich in potassium, bananas, orange juice, potatoes, etc., can help to compensate for low levels of potassium in the body.
Get Enough Sun Exposure
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that aids in absorbing calcium and phosphorous from the diet. A sun exposure of 5-30 minutes, twice a week has been strongly recommended to obtain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, since it plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of bones and muscles in the body.A deficiency of vitamin D slows down the absorption of calcium in the body, leading to bone pains and muscle weakness, thus causing toe cramps. Also, one can obtain vitamin D though food sources like dairy products, fish, fortified cereals, oysters, etc.
Adequate Stretching Before Exercise
Warming up is an essential part of an exercise program, since it not only aids in preparing the muscles for exercise, but also for speeding up the process of recovery after a session of strenuous exercise. Dynamic stretches at the beginning of the exercise, involving slow and controlled movement helps to promote blood circulation to the feet, thus preventing muscle injury and stiffness of the toes that leads to toe cramps.
By dilating the blood vessels, warming up exercises provide adequate levels of calcium, potassium and magnesium that is required for accelerating the speed of contraction and relaxation of the muscle fibers. Warming up is extremely important during the winters, since in general, the muscles are more stiff and tighter during the colder months.
Stretch Your Toes Regularly
It is important to stretch your toes regularly during the day while using a computer, watching TV, during a shower, etc. In fact, toe exercises like hammer toe exercises, stretching exercises, big toe exercises can strengthen toe muscles and help in relieving pain and stiffness associated with toe cramps. If you are experiencing frequent nocturnal toe cramps, it is advisable to perform these exercises every day, before going to bed.
Massage Your Toes
Massaging can dramatically increase blood flow to the areas around the toes and aid in preventing toe cramps to a great extent. It also strengthens and tones the muscles present in the toe, thereby allowing them to tolerate the stress that they undergo while performing a strenuous activity.
Simple toe exercises in conjunction with a massage using essential oils like olive oil, castor oil, flaxseed oil, etc., can bring great relief from toe cramps. It loosens up the muscles of the toes and promotes muscle relaxation, thus preventing them from tightening and causing toe cramps.
The above mentioned tips can be of great help to the older age group and people who suffer from diabetic neuropathy, since they suffer from nerve damage that often leads to muscle spasms and toe cramps. However, before you adapt any of these measures, it is important to probe into the possible causes and identify the possible trigger that could have lead to a toe cramp. Certain drugs prescribed for hypertension, high cholesterol levels and asthma can also cause toe cramps. Hence, if you experience toe cramps frequently, it is important to consult a doctor, before adapting any of the aforementioned preventive measures.