It is estimated over 50% of adults age 50 and older experience both involuntary and foot and leg cramping. Combined with the natural loss of fatty tissue protecting your feet at this age, it can often feel your legs have hit a wall. Most of us don’t “feel” as though anything has changed, besides our bodies might feel a little more fatigued or sore than they did during our thirties or forties- which seems like only yesterday. Why the sudden changes in our feet and legs? Natural evolution and progression of aging coupled with medications, lifestyle, and physical activity. Now, this is likely not what you want to hear, however there are organic, non-prescription medication or doctor visit related solutions you can take to keep your legs feeling as young as your mind feels in your fifties and beyond.
1- Feel comfortable walking, running, or doing your favorite activity again– Let’s discuss the loss of tissue around the feet. Dr. Nick Romansky from Philadelphia based Healthmark Foot and Ankle informed me that many people over the age of 50 experience a loss of the fatty tissue on the pad of the foot, resulting in major changes in comfort, cushion, protection, and even balance. “I often see this loss and shift in female patients, more so than males, however it is still a major problem.” Dr. Romansky stated. How do you counter-balance the changes? “Insoles can play an important role in comfort, cushion, and proper alignment of the foot and ankle. In particular, Protalus insoles were designed to replace orthotics and help people get back to comfortable steps in motion.”
2- Turn the light off on nocturnal cramping– Have you been abruptly awoken from sleep in agony as a muscle spasm shoots through your leg or calf? The cause can actually be a myriad of things from dehydration to daily prescription medications, and diabetes to back pain. So how do you turn off the muscle tightness, cramping, tingling, and numbing? A new over-the-counter solution is now available in drug stores such as Walgreens and CVS across the country. Theraworx Relief can be used as both a precautionary measure and for instant aid in the heat of a spasm. Even Nike and Under Armour have created a new line of sleep clothing to aid athletic/muscle recovery.
3- Keep the blood flowing – As our bodies age, our muscles can weaken. Sitting too much can cause muscle stiffness and soreness, as well as doing too much physical activity can have the same effect. We feel great, and then over do it either way. It is important to keep your blood flowing. One popular choice is yoga, and more specifically the ‘legs up the wall pose.’ Why? This pose allows you to lie on your back and literally stick your legs up a real wall or imaginary wall. The pose is as simple as that. It allows the blood from your feet and ankles to flow back into your heart. “This inversion gives the legs a break, can help reduce swelling, and increase circulation. Inversion helps wake you up, and can increase energy,” Mya Saldivar (Yoga Instructor and Studio Owner) of Sumits Hot Yoga in South Jordan, Utah expressed. The key thing to remember, avoid prolonged sitting or standing.
To understand the true cause of your leg, foot and muscle cramping pain, you may need to see a doctor if remedies such as these don’t help alleviate the pain. If your legs are uncomfortable, take a look at your nutrition or water intake first. Being proactive about your wellness will help you identify the root of the cause. More often than not, Dr. Romansky identifies leg and foot problems to the following- FITS.
Frequency – The muscles have done too much, too quick.
Intensity – Overstressing the muscle. For example, walking or running a mile in a faster pace than normal. If you are trying to keep up with a friend by walking a 14 minute mile versus taking your normal 16 minutes, it can play a role in cramping and/or pain.
Time – If your legs, feet, or muscles are not used to something, increasing the time by even ten minutes can play a role in how your legs feel. The golden rule is to not increase your activity more than ten percent per week.
Shoes – Many people do not wear the proper foot attire, or their foot is out of alignment, causing more pain and discomfort. “Whether it is switching the type of shoe or inserting a Protalus insole, it can often make the world of difference,” recommends Dr. Romansky.