Huber Heights Office
Sometimes I don’t know the answers to my patients’ questions. Sometimes I don’t know exactly how to “fix” them. There are few things that frustrate me more. So when my patients ask me about nocturnal leg cramps I inwardly cringe, because I don’t always have a straightforward answer for why they get the cramps or how to treat them. The truth is that the medical community at large has a poor understanding of this common ailment.
The International Classification of Sleep Disorders recognizes “sleep-related leg cramps” as a true sleep disorder. These night cramps are sudden, painful, involuntary contractions of muscles in your calf, feet, or thighs. The muscle that is cramping will feel hard and sometimes you can even see it tightening. Some of my patients report that these severe cramps awaken them from sleep (talk about a rude awakening!) or prevent them from even falling asleep at night. This can even lead to chronic sleep deprivation. The incidence of night cramps has been shown to increase with age. There is research that shows that half of people over the age of 80 reported having sleep-related cramps at least once in the past 2 months. These types of leg cramps are also increased during pregnancy.
While it is not known exactly what causes night cramps there are a lot of theories out there. These theories usually point to metabolic disorders (such as magnesium, calcium, potassium deficiency, or dehydration), structural disorders (tight muscles, flat feet), positional (making a movement in your sleep that shortens the muscle), or over-exertional (fatigued muscles are more likely to cramp).
It is also important to rule out diabetes and peripheral vascular disease when searching for a reason for your cramping. While both of these conditions can cause discomfort in the feet and legs at night, neither one of them causes muscles to spasm or become tight and hard. The same goes for restless legs syndrome, which is associated with an uncomfortable urge to move the legs, not necessarily pain.
Treatment of night cramps is pretty easy. It usually just involves slow and steady stretching or massaging of the cramping muscle. A heating pad or hot compress can also aid in muscle relaxation. Some people recommend taking a vitamin supplement or drinking water to stop the cramp, but the truth is that the cramp will be gone before either of these has time to take effect.
The best treatment for night cramps is prevention, which can be the tricky part since we really don’t know what causes them. As a general rule, if there are lots and lots of treatments for one condition it usually means that no one treatment works really well for most people. And there are a MULTITUDE of suggested treatments for preventing night cramps! I have heard everything from drinking a glass of pickle juice to taking Quinine (which is not even available in the US because of the severe adverse effects).
Some of the more common suggestions are:
If you are losing precious sleep because of cramping in your legs or feet it’s time to do something about it. No one has all of the answers regarding night cramps, but at Advanced Foot and Ankle Care we are here for you to attempt to answer any of your questions regarding cramping in your legs or feet (at night and otherwise). We will work with you to assess the reason for the cramping and make suggestions for preventing the cramping whether it is giving you a night splint, showing you stretching exercises, giving advice on the proper shoes, or fitting you with orthotics. You’ll be back to catching Zzzz’s before you know it!
Zumba: Party Yourself Into Shape, Not Injury
If you haven’t heard about Zumba, the high-energy aerobic workout that’s more like a dance party than an exercise routine, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past year. An estimated 12 million people worldwide now do the cardio-dance classes that are a combination of merengue, salsa, and other Latin dances.
Zumba is so much fun, it seems like everybody is doing it. That’s where I, your friendly Podiatrist, come in. A lot of the people who participate in Zumba are enthusiastic new exercisers who live an otherwise sedentary life. Add their eagerness, inexperience, Latin dance beats, and bad shoes and you’ve created the perfect storm for a foot injury.
If I had a dollar for every Zumba-induced foot injury I’ve seen I could pay for a month’s worth of Zumba classes at my local Urban Active. The four most common Zumba-induced pathologies and injuries I see at Advanced Foot and Ankle Care are
A more detailed explanation of each of these injuries and how we treat them can be found on our website (www.footandanklecare.org).
All is not lost though. If you’ve avoided injury thus far or are recovering from a Zumba-related foot injury, there are several things you can do to stay injury-free to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck and the most benefit for all that sweating.
Your shoes (not your brightly colored leotard) are the most important article of clothing you wear to Zumba class. The ideal shoes for Zumba are supportive, especially in the arch area. The front of the shoes (where your toes bend) should be flexible. Cross-trainers are great shoes for this type of activity because they allow side-to-side motion and don’t have deep treads like a lot of running shoes do. This allows them to maneuver through the dance moves easier. We have several shoe options in our office shoe stores in all three office locations (Huber Heights, Troy and Piqua) that are perfect for Zumba. And as an added bonus, we have a helpful and knowledgeable staff to help you choose the right shoe.
An orthotic, a custom-made insole, is also a great option to help prevent injury (especially in certain foot types) or to prevent re-injury if you are recovering Zumba-er. Orthotics work to support your foot, reduce weight bearing forces on certain areas, and correct the function of the foot to make motion easier and less painful. At Advanced Foot and Ankle Care we can provide you with a custom-made device that will change your life in and out of Zumba class.
One of the best things about Zumba is that it lets you customize your own work out. You can make the class high impact or low impact. Some gyms now offer Aqua Zumba and Zumba Gold- the low-impact version. Be sure to tell your Zumba instructor about previous injuries or special health concerns like pregnancy. Know your limitations and don’t start out too fast, even if it’s hard to control your hips with those infectious Latin beats blasting.
As always, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen.