Leg pain is not just an annoying period of discomfort. Because they usually occur at night, they can wake you up and disrupt much-needed rest and sleep.

A variety of causes, from overexertion to neurological disorders and circulatory disorders, can aggravate the problem of swollen feet. There are also idiopathic causes, which basically means the cause is unknown.

But just because they’re widespread and have so many causes doesn’t mean there aren’t good options for prevention and treatment. Family medicine physician Matthew Goldman, MD, walks us through the best options and suggests some to avoid.

Prevention of leg swelling
Although you can’t completely prevent foot swelling, you can definitely take steps to reduce your risk of some of these common causes of aches and pains.

One of the biggest causes of leg cramps and muscle cramps in general is dehydration. Dr. Goldman says you should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water each day, but he recommends increasing your intake if you’re active, especially outdoors.

In general, the main goal is to keep the urine clean. If your urine is yellow, orange, or orange in color, this is a sign that you are dehydrated and may need to increase your water intake.

Another way to avoid dehydration is to limit alcohol and caffeine intake.

If you are concerned about urine color and/or dehydration, talk to your provider.

Exercise care
Overexertion and other parts of exercise can contribute to swollen feet, but there are ways to combat it.

First and foremost, Dr. Goldman says, make sure your shoes fit and support your feet properly. Choosing the right running shoe can have a huge impact on your body, whether it’s a high or low arch, the type of shoe’s midsole, and your need for stability.

Next, make sure you’re stretching properly before and after your workout. Stretching, especially dynamic stretching, helps warm up and prepare muscles for whatever activity you’re about to do, and proper stretching helps prevent muscle pulls during and after exercise.

One stretch in particular can prevent your calves from pulling. Standing three feet from a wall, lean forward and touch the wall with outstretched arms, but keep your feet straight. Hold this position for a count of five, then relax. Repeat this stretch three times a day for up to five minutes.

Bedtime preparation
Finally, since it happens at night, there are some things you can do before bed to prevent swollen feet. Dr. Goldman recommends gentle leg stretches or light exercise, such as walking or short bike rides, before bed.

But there are also things you can do to help with your sleep, including adjusting your sleeping position. If you sleep on your back, try using a pillow to prop your toes up. If you sleep on your stomach, try dangling your legs over the end of the bed. These two positions will help keep you in a state of relaxation while you sleep, he adds.

Treatment of leg pain at home
Swelling of the feet is unpleasant and often painful, so you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Although there is no guarantee that leg cramps will stop immediately, there are several ways to relieve the pain.

Stretching and other activities
One easy way to relieve foot pain is to stretch. Dr. Goldman recommends one stretch: while standing (or sitting with your legs spread out in front of you), raise your legs until your legs are straight and your toes point toward your shins, then pull your toes or, if available, a towel for help if you can’t reach.

Other activities like walking and moving your legs can help relieve these cramps. Also, try massaging your tight muscles with your hands or a roller. Finally, try standing and pressing your feet into the floor to stretch your muscles.

Hot and cold
According to Dr. Goldman, large changes in temperature can help with muscle stiffness. In addition to stretching, warming up tight muscles with a heating pad or a warm bath can help loosen them and increase blood flow.

Conversely, an ice pack can help relieve pain while you wait for the leg cramps to subside. Wrap the ice in a towel or other material to prevent it from directly touching your skin.

Drug treatment
Over-the-counter pain relievers will not immediately relieve the pain, but ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve pain associated with cramps. Talk to your provider first about whether these medications are safe for you.

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