Why We Have Foot Cramps at Night?

Feet cramping at night can be painful, but they are rarely alarming. Determining the causes of foot cramps at night can help you to prevent and treat the problem. Stretching is one of the best foot cramp treatments that you can consider to get rid of sudden muscular pain.

Keep reading to learn about the leg and foot cramps at night causes and how to get rid of them.  

What is a cramp?

A cramp is an involuntary muscle contraction or over-shortening of the muscle, which is very painful. Still, it is generally temporary and non-damaging, and the cramps may cause paralysis life immobility of the affected muscles. Cramps are sudden, can happen anytime, and resolves independently over several seconds, minutes, or hours.  

The part which suffers the most cramps is the foot, which occurs for many reasons. Foot cramps at night are sudden pain due to the contraction of muscles in the legs. The cramps that occur during the night are known as nocturnal leg cramps. This pain in leg and foot at night may occur in the calves, soles of the feet, or other muscles in the body or while resting. Cramps in legs and feet at night can cause intense pain that is enough to make you want to scream. Your muscles are hard to touch, and it doesn’t let you up.  

Illustration depicting factors that can lead to nighttime foot cramps, including dehydration, muscle fatigue, and mineral deficiencies.

Types of muscle cramps and the causes of foot cramps

    1. Skeletal Muscle Cramps – these cramps happen to the skeletal muscles of the calves, thighs, and arches of the foot and are sometimes called a “Charley horse” or a “Corky”. These cramps occur due to strenuous physical activity and can be extremely painful; however, they can occur during inactivity or when relaxing. When you have foot arch cramps at night, the muscles get locked, and you cannot use them at that time.
    2. Nocturnal foot cramps – the cramps that develop in the legs during the night of sleep are known as nocturnal foot cramps. The duration of the cramps may vary and can last from a few seconds to several minutes. The soreness of the muscles may remain after the cramps tend. These cramps mostly happen in older people.

The cause of feet aches at night are dehydration, low levels of certain minerals (magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium, although the evidence has been mixed), and reduced blood flow through the muscle attendant in prolonged sitting or lying down. The intensity of the pain caused by toe cramps at night range from mild to severely painful.

The main cause of feet cramps at night is an accumulation of lactic acid, which gets accumulated due to strenuous exercise and physical activity. Some medicines have side effects that can lead to foot cramps, including diuretics, conjugated estrogens, teriparatide, naproxen, and raloxifene. Foot cramps can cause stress and anxiety also. Poor circulation of blood and lack of stretching also lead to foot cramps. One of the lesser-known reasons behind the cramps is wearing the wrong shoes.


Here are some foot cramp cures that you can use to get instant relief:

    1. Antifoot cramp medicine – various foot cramp medicines can provide instant relief from the cramp. One of the best medicines available for treating cramps is Quinine, but there are various side effects of this medicine; hence this medicine is used after other medications fail. Vitamin B complex, naftidrofuryl, lidocaine, and calcium channel blockers effectively treat foot cramps. Taking vitamin E can prevent nocturnal foot cramps, and many types of research have proved their effectiveness.
    2. Home remedies for the treatment of cramps – cramps can be very easily cured using some home remedies. Using a hot cloth on the effective foot may soothe the cramped foot and relieve the muscles as blood circulation increases to that effect. Another effective treatment method is taking a long warm shower bath with water containing Epsom salt, which promotes muscle relaxation. Don’t sleep with toes tucked tightly inside the sheets to prevent nocturnal foot cramps.
    3. Stretching – the cramps occur due to tightening or shortening of the foot muscles, so regularly stretching for ten minutes can prevent cramps. The basic stretching exercise involves stepping back with of affected calf, and another exercise involves leaning forward on the other leg and pushing against the wall.
    4. Massaging – Mix one part of wintergreen oil with four parts of vegetable oil and massage it to the effective area for some time; this immediately relaxes your muscles and gives you instant relief. You should use this mixture three to four times a day to get relief and prevent further cramps.

 Illustration of Leg and Foot Cramps at Night - A person experiencing nocturnal leg cramps.


Stop foot cramps by following these simple steps:

    • The reason behind the cramps is dehydration, so keep yourself hydrated and drink lots of water regularly. Keep the appropriate balance of the electrolytes in the body.
    • Take proper rest after the strenuous exercise, and never overexert your muscles.
    • Do exercise regularly, and your exercises involve stretching as stretching prevents cramps and strengthens your muscles.

Posture is very important to prevent foot cramps when lying down. Sleep properly, and don’t tuck your toes tightly in the sheets.


Leg and foot cramps at night do not always have a medical cause, but it’s always a good idea to consult a doctor to rule this out. To help prevent them, stretch your calf and hamstring muscles before bed. The good news is that these cramps are not usually a cause for concern. While foot and leg pain at night can be associated with certain health conditions like hypothyroidism or diabetes, stretches, medications, and lifestyle changes may help reduce or resolve the pain entirely. 

Also Read: Understanding Chronic Muscle Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

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