Problems with the leg commonly occur during sports or recreational activities. They can also be as a result of injuries. The common leg problems include pain, swelling, numbness, tingling, weakness or cramps in different parts of the leg. These symptoms are as a result of exercise as well as everyday wear and tear of the body, or even over use. Cramps are most common of the leg problems. It is not uncommon, if someone has to wake up in the middle of the night with a cramping feeling in the ankle. It can be a shooting pain or it can be a dull ache. For some people the cramping feeling may be more like a sprain. The worst fact about cramps is that they are felt only in the night or when one wakes up and has to start walking around. Other than the knee, ankle is a weight-bearing joint of the body. All through the day, we are not even aware of the pressure that is exerted on the joint, which often may cause cramps.
What Causes Cramps in the Ankle?
Cramps are usually caused, when the muscles of the particular area contract and cause agonizing pain, which leaves the person immobile for a certain time period. Cramps can occur in the legs, arms and back, but cramps in the legs are the most common. The most common cause of cramps is dehydration. Many women suffer from cramping during menstruation.
Many a time, we are not even aware of the fact, that we are overdoing a particular activity. The other variation is repeatedly doing the same activity. This is true of the athletes and fitness aficionados. Muscle and ankle cramps can also be as a result of dehydration. This is especially seen during summers, if the person has been out in the sun, to do his exercise or for work.
Problems, which affect the blood vessels are also known to cause ankle cramps. Peripheral arterial disease is one of the problems, which can cause leg cramps. Many times, when the person walks a short distance, he experiences severe cramps in the ankle. However, the problem subsides after taking sufficient amount of rest.
Prolonged period of inactivity can also give rise to cramps in the leg. This is especially true, when the person sits in one place for an extended period or stands, while he does his work. Therefore, nocturnal leg cramps are also mostly caused due to inactivity.
Electrolyte imbalance is said to be one of the causes of cramps. Therefore, cramps is a common occurrence during summers, when we tend to sweat a lot. This causes electrolyte loss from the body, which is known to cause cramps. Similarly potassium deficiency can also be the cause of cramps. If a pregnant woman suffers from cramps, she is asked to eat a banana everyday to replenish potassium.
Injury to the feet or ankles, may cause the ankle joint to swell up, as the body is trying to protect itself and avoid any further injury. The swelling may contract the muscles, due to which, it may go into a spasm causing cramps.
Treating Ankle Cramps
The first and an effective method to treat cramps at night is to gently massage the area. When you massage the area, make sure you do so in the natural direction of the muscles. This will help in releasing the tightened knots and in improving blood circulation to the area. Along with massages, you can try to stretch your calf and leg muscles by pointing and flexing your feet. When you point your feet, hold in the position for 30 seconds and repeat the same when you are flexing your feet. If you suffer from cramps regularly, you may want to have a stretching regime for yourself.
You may want to use hot water to treat the area. You can let hot water flow on your ankle for a considerable amount of time. The water should be adequately hot, so that you are able to bear the temperature of the water. You can also use a hot water bag for the same. Like hot water, you can also choose to treat the condition with alternate cold and warm compresses. Rubbing an ice pack over the cramped area for ten minutes or till the area turns red is also recommended. When the area turns red it is an indication that the blood cells are heating the muscles. Hot compress helps in stimulating blood circulation to the affected area.
If you suffer from cramps regularly, it can also be an indicator, that you lack certain vital nutrients such as calcium and potassium. You may want to include calcium rich food like milk, yogurt and potassium rich food like potatoes and bananas in your diet. At the same time, it is important to be well hydrated all the time. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish the lost fluids. If you have seen that you suffer from cramps mainly in summer or after your workout, it can also be due to electrolyte imbalance, which you can rectify by consuming electrolytes mixed with water.
If you have the habit of wearing high heels for prolonged periods, you may want to reconsider your choice of footwear. High heels hamper the blood circulation in the body. If cramps in the ankles are recurring and persistent, you may want to consult your health care professional, to find out the exact cause of the problem.