Date: November 8, 2022

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna


Foot and hand cramps are one of those “issues” that become more common in the elderly. They are more prevalent in women (of course, because there aren’t enough fun things about aging for women) and though typically brief they can be extremely painful and uncomfortable.

Muscle Cramps in the Elderly

Our muscles naturally contract and release multiple times throughout the day without really thinking about it. We use muscle contractions to bend over and pick things up, pick up and drink from a glass of water, and even just hold our television remote. Typically our brain sends signals through the nervous system and to the muscles easily and without a problem. When this process becomes interrupted, it results in muscle spasms and cramps.

Muscle cramps in the elderly mostly commonly occur in the hands and feet along with the legs. Though the cause is not always easy to pinpoint, there are several things that can be done to relieve and even prevent future cramps.

What Causes Hand Cramps in the Elderly?

Hand cramps in the elderly can be caused by:

  • Electrolyte imbalance – lack of electrolytes like calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are all necessary to prevent cramps and keep the body healthy overall

  • Dehydration – you should be drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces each day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should be drinking 70 ounces of water each day

  • Overuse injuries (think “writer’s cramp”) – this can be caused by writing or typing for too long or even excessive grip on things like utensils, tools, or remotes

  • Arthritis – joint swelling and inflammation from arthritis can cause hand cramps

Download Our Relieving Arthritis Pain Guide

Causes of Foot Pain in the Elderly

Foot pain at night in the elderly can be very frustrating. Insomnia can already be a struggle for elderly adults, and adding foot pain to the mix will not help at all. Many of the causes of foot cramps are similar to the causes of hand cramps in the elderly, but some additional causes specific to feet include:

  • Kidney disease and dialysis

  • Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease or MS

  • Thyroid Disorders

  • Lack of vitamin D

Thankfully there are many remedies for foot pain, and most of them can be done at home without a prescription.

To ease foot cramps and pain, especially at night, you can try:

  • Massage

  • Vitamin supplements such as potassium or magnesium (always check with your doctor before adding new vitamins or supplements to your diet)

  • Pain-relieving ointments – these can be prescribed by your doctor

  • Elevation – fluid can build up in the feet, especially in seniors who are not very mobile. Elevating the feet can help reduce this build-up and relieve foot pain

  • Hydration

  • Compression socks to help regulate circulation

Generally, hand and foot cramps will resolve on their own, and if the pain lasts for a while after the cramp releases, over-the-counter pain medication can help. If hand or foot cramps are happening frequently or take longer than a few minutes (15 at most) to go away, speak with your doctor. They may be a symptom of a larger issue; even if not, the doctor can provide more helpful and targeted advice.

Date: November 8, 2022

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna


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