Foot cramps aren’t terribly unusual. These can happen once in a while to any of us, especially if we’ve kept a foot in an unusual position (or even seemingly at random). When the tight, squeezing ache is experienced frequently in your foot—and especially during periods of physical activity—it could be a symptom of intermittent claudication. Our staff at Richardson Podiatry Associates can help determine if a problem with blood circulation is to blame.
The Problem with Narrowed Vessels
As we look at this issue, it might help to think of your blood vessels as being an intricate highway system, with “roads” leading to and from all areas of the body. Your blood cells use this highway network to deliver oxygen and nutrients to various tissues, and then carry waste away as they leave. Much like roads in the external world, narrowed blood vessels impair the otherwise normal traffic flow and create a bit of a traffic jam. Appropriate levels of oxygen are then unable to reach the intended locations, including the lower limbs, in an efficient manner. This oxygen deprivation could be the source of the pain and cramping in your foot muscles.
Instead of being labeled as “sharp,” intermittent claudication pain tends to be more of a deep ache. Tightness and burning sensations can also be experienced, and this is often evident in the feet or legs. Physical activity can lead to an onset of symptoms, since the muscles use more oxygen when they are moving. When allowed to rest, the muscles do not require the same levels of oxygen and the pain will typically fade in time. Extra stress placed upon the lower leg muscles, like when climbing stairs or walking, can lead to pain flares.
A primary culprit responsible for narrowing blood vessels is a condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This can be caused by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and especially smoking. There are other causes of blood vessel blockage, however. Swollen muscle tissue can compress an artery or vein in a condition known as compartment syndrome. Blood clots can also impede circulation.
Diagnosing and Treating Circulatory Issues
If you have a foot that is cramping often, be sure to come see us here at Richardson Podiatry Associates and Dr. Gene Reister will evaluate the situation and determine an appropriate course of action. It is important to determine if the root cause of the blood vessels narrowing is poor circulation. Left untreated, PAD can lead to a worsening in conditions—frequent pain and cramping—along with heightened risk for heart attack and stroke.
Treatment for PAD and its symptoms will depend on both the severity and cause of the problem. In many instances, lifestyle changes bring positive results. These include controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, quitting smoking, and even increased physical activity. There might be cramping and pain early in a workout program, but the muscles will learn to more effectively use oxygen over the time, which will lead to less pain and cramping. Be sure to consult with our office first, however, so we can help you create a workout plan that is not too intense (but still works).
In more severe cases of PAD, medications are prescribed to improve circulation, prevent clotting, and reduce symptoms. Sometimes, surgical procedures (angioplasty, bypass surgery) are necessary.
Professional Foot Care When You Need It
Feet that cramp frequently can be a sign of a potentially serious condition. Seeing us sooner, and receiving the treatment you need, can reduce your risk of severe medical complications. Intermittent claudication is one of the many foot and ankle issues we treat here at Richardson Podiatry Associates, so contact us if you are in need of lower limb care. Contact us by calling (972) 690-5374 or schedule your appointment with our Richardson, TX office online today.