A big toe cramp without a known cause can be unnerving if it’s bad enough. A common cause is a benign muscle spasm. But what about multiple sclerosis?

After all, this autoimmune disease, indeed, can cause pain.

A person with MS may also have a toe cramp, but this doesn’t mean that the cramping in their big toe is from the autoimmune condition.     

“MS can cause muscle spasms that involve large muscle groups in the legs or arms — for example, multiple toes, the whole foot or hand,” says Achillefs Ntranos, MD, a board certified neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis and demyelinating diseases, and chief neurologist with Treat MS.

“An isolated big toe cramp is unlikely to be from MS,” continues Dr. Ntranos.

If your big toe has been cramping lately, ask yourself if you’ve been doing any new kind of physical activity for exercise or sport. This includes yoga and kicking at a heavy bag.

A new exercise or physical activity can cramp up the big toe, being that it tends to take the brunt of the forces.

Have you been trying to break in a new pair of shoes? Heeled shoes, especially, can put pressure on the big toe.

Are you drinking enough water? Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps.

A muscle spasm in the big toe can be incredibly painful. But rest assured, this kind of isolated cramping in a very small muscle group is not a sign of multiple sclerosis.

And, if the cramp is your only symptom, so localized in just one toe, it’s extremely, extremely unlikely that it means a systemic disease process.

Dr. Ntranos is the chief neurologist and MS specialist at Treat MS. His goal is to combine concepts of personalized medical management with evidence-based clinical decision making to maximize the treatment benefit for each MS patient.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.

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