Ankle cramps are shooting pains or dull aches that occur in the ankle area. There are several factors that can cause these cramps, from dehydration to menstruation. Stretching and massage can greatly reduce the pain of the cramps, though people who suffer chronic or constant ankle pain may want to consult a doctor for comprehensive diagnosis.
Most ankle pain comes from overexertion of the body. Repetitive motion, such as walking or jogging, can cause gradual strain on the ankles that develops throughout a workout, eventually leading to ankle cramps. While some cramps set in during the exercise or activity, others may not appear until hours later as the muscles try to fully relax.
Many women report feeling ankle pain prior to or during menstruation. This may be due to the rapid fluctuation in hormones that occurs at the beginning of a woman's period. Massage is one of the recommended ways to reduce these cramps during menstruation, although application of heat and over-the-counter painkillers can also be very helpful.
Like most cramps, ankle pain can be the result of dehydration. Water is needed to carry vital salts, like sodium and calcium, throughout the body. When the muscles are deprived of adequate water, they can begin to spasm and cause the pain or ache that people associate with cramps. Similarly, poor circulation can prevent the body from getting enough oxygenated blood to function correctly, resulting in ankle cramps.
Cramps can also be the result of an injury to the feet or ankles, To protect the injured area, the ankle may swell up, which prevents further injury but may result in cramping. Swelling-related cramps in the ankle are also common during pregnancy, when hormonal shifts cause the body to retain excess water. Swelling can usually be reduced using ice or heat and resting the area. It may be wise to consult a doctor if cramps are the result of an injury, as it can be a sign of a sprain, break, or tendon injury that requires medical care.
Treating temporary ankle cramps is usually quite simple, but some cramps may require diet or lifestyle changes. Simple remedies include daily stretching, using heating pads or ice to reduce swelling massage of the area, or taking pain medication. If cramps are hydration-related, it may be important to drink more fluids and even add more electrolytes to the diet. For those who begin experiencing regular cramps after exercise, it may be worthwhile to change shoes to see if an improper fit or worn-out pair is contributing to the problem.