Charlie Horse in Toes

You are in a deep sleep and then all of a sudden you wake up with a paralyzing stiffness in your foot or calf – does this sound familiar? Commonly called a leg or foot cramp, Charley horse in toes, feet, or calves can be extremely annoying. You get this pain when a muscle in your body gets stiff and fails to relax. You are more likely to deal with these cramps as you age. They are not harmful, but they can be extremely uncomfortable.

Causes of Charlie Horse in Toes

Knowing the causes of getting cramps in your toes and feet helps understand the condition better. Here are some of the most common causes of muscle cramps.

  • Lack of hydration: You may experience muscle cramps when you become dehydrated. Increase your intake of water and fluids to see if this fixes your cramps.
  • Problems with nutrition: A balance of electrolytes is important for the proper relaxation and contraction of a muscle, and eating lots of colorful veggies and fruits may help in this regard. Do not automatically assume you are low in electrolytes and you need supplements. Taking supplements when you do not need them can cause serious complications.
  • Side effect of medication: Muscle cramps may well be the outcome of taking certain medications. You may develop cramps when taking medications such as furosemide or statins. Be sure to see your doctor immediately if your cramps start suddenly after you take your medications.
  • Stiff muscles: You are more likely to develop Charlie horse in toes when you do not stretch your muscles enough. Adequate stretching not only makes your muscles flexible but it also helps them become strong over time.
  • Overexertion: Being engaged in strenuous workouts may sometimes leave you with muscle cramps later in the day. It is important to avoid overexertion and instead pace yourself to stay healthy and fit.
  • Poor blood circulation: Cramping that increases with walking is usually due to poor blood circulation. See your doctor immediately if your cramps become worse when you walk and do not seem to go away.
  • Wrong footwear: Not wearing the right shoes may also cause muscle cramps. You are more likely to experience cramps when you switch from flats to heels.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics are at an increased risk for peripheral neuropathy, which damages the nerves in your toes and fingers, and these malfunctioning nerves can cause pain and cramping.
  • Liver disease: The buildup of toxins due to a dysfunctional liver may also be the reason to muscle spasms and cramps.

Remedies to Help

You can take several homecare measures to treat Charlie horse in toes. Be sure to talk to your doctor though if cramping persists or becomes worse.

1. Stretch Them

Stiffness in the muscles can cause all sorts of problems. Regular stretching goes a long way in preventing those issues. Try the following exercises for great results:

  • Toe Raise: Stand in an upright position and raise your heel off the floor in a way that your toes and the ball of the foot is still touching the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
  • Toe Flex: Flex your foot in a way that your big toe points in one direction. Hold it for five seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
  • Toe Curl: Lie on the floor and curl your toes as if you are tucking them under your foot. Maintain the curl for five seconds, relax, and repeat 10 times.
  • Marble Pick Up: Place about 20 marbles on the ground and then pick them up with the help of your toes.
  • Sand Walking: Walking barefoot in the sand is extremely beneficial because it massages your foot muscles and strengthens them at the same time.

2. Use Hot or Cold Compressions

You can try heat and ice to help relax the muscles. Applying a heating pad directly to the cramped toe may help relax tight muscles, whereas massaging your toe with a cold pack may help relieve pain quickly.

3. Improve Your Electrolyte Intake

If you sweat a lot, your body loses minerals, salt, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. You may also lose these minerals when you are taking certain medications, such as diuretics. You may have to increase your electrolyte intake if you are not getting at least 1,000mg of calcium, 400g of magnesium, and 4,700mg of potassium every day. Here are some foods to include in your diet:

  • Have more of cheese, low-fat milk, and yogurt to get more calcium.
  • Consume broccoli and spinach to get magnesium and potassium.
  • Eat almonds to get magnesium.
  • Include bananas in your diet to get potassium.

4. Change Your Shoes

Sometimes, you do not know it but your ill-fitting shoes are the underlying cause of Charlie horse in toes. You are more likely to develop toe cramps when you spend the whole day in heels. Similarly, runners, dancers, and other athletes are more likely to develop toe cramps for not wearing shoes as per their foot shape. Consider tossing the heels if you are getting toe cramps because of them. Shoes with a wider toe box are more likely to help.

5. Loosen the Covers

You may develop cramps while sitting, standing, lying in certain positions. For instance, you may develop cramps while sleeping on your back under covers, especially if they press down your toes and lead to the tightening of your foot and calf muscles. It is therefore better to sleep on your side while keeping your knees bent. Also, ensure you have loosening blankets and sheets to avoid putting weight on your feet.

6. Get More Potassium

You are more likely to deal with muscle cramps and spasms when you are deficient in potassium. The best way to fix the issue is to increase your potassium intake by eating potassium-rich foods at least once a day. Some good choices include avocados, bananas, and oranges. Potassium supplements may also help if you are really low in potassium.

7. Get More Magnesium and Calcium

Consuming enough calcium and magnesium is important for keeping your muscles from becoming cramped. It is important to include dairy products in your diet to meet your recommended daily intake of calcium. You can also take supplements to get these minerals and prevent Charley horse in toes.

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