Scuba Diving And Cramps:

How to Prevent Leg Pain, Foot Pain, and Cramps While Scuba Diving

Scuba diving and cramps shouldn’t go together. But, unfortunately, as many of us know – they sometimes do. And it is never fun. Today we have a guest post by Dr. Brent Wells addressing this issue. So if you ever had that leg cramp up while diving, or if you never want to feel those leg cramps while diving, this post is for you. There are some simple things we can do to help prevent experiencing this issue during our dives. Hope you enjoy the article. Here’s to cramp free dives!

It’s happened to every scuba diver at one time or another. There you are, watching manta rays glide across the ocean floor when suddenly, you are hit with a powerful leg or foot cramp. The more you try to shake it off, the worse it gets. What can you do?

Regardless of how much experience you have or what kind of shape you are in, leg and foot cramps can hit at any time. This is especially true when it comes to cramps in the calves.

In addition to being painful, cramps can cause you to fall behind or get left behind by your diving buddies, make you forget to monitor your air, and even cause you to stop paying attention to how deep you are diving.

The good news is that there are some steps you can take both before and after a dive to help keep these pain-filled episodes short and infrequent.

Why Your Legs and Calves Cramp Up

While most divers experience cramps in their calves, you can also get them in your thighs and your feet. Some episodes are short, others are excruciating and go on for 3-5 minutes!

There are multiple reasons why our legs cramp, and sometimes the reason is unknown.

One thought is that certain activities, such as diving and swimming, involve the intense use of multiple muscle groups, including the feet, calves, quads, hamstrings, and buttocks. This “overuse” or prolonged use of these muscles can cause a lack of circulation, which can cause cramps.

One known factor is that when the body is low on certain minerals, the muscles do not receive proper nerve signals, or the lack of these nutrients causes the muscles to act erratically.

Tips for Preventing Cramps and “Divers’ Feet”

When we are diving and swimming, we point our feet to effectively use our swim fins. Unfortunately, pointing our feet is what can bring on a cramp in the calves or the toes.

This cramping when pointing our toes is so common it is known as divers’ feet.

The best tips for preventing these cramps include:

  • Ensuring that your fins fit well. The foot pockets should be long enough and wide enough that you can wiggle your toes just a bit
  • Check the stiffness of your fins. Older fins can become too stiff and hard, which forces you to put more effort into using them
  • Be sure that your booties fit well and are not too tight
  • The strap on the back of your fin should fit firmly, but not so tight that they pinch

Regular stretching exercises can also go a long way towards preventing cramps. You should do stretching at least 3-4 times per week and before you go on a dive to prevent leg or foot pain and cramps.

Good stretches for the legs, buttocks, and feet include:

  • Upper Calf Stretch – Stand near a wall with one foot in front of the other. The front knee should be slightly bent. Put your hands on the wall for support. Keep the back leg straight and the heel on the ground. Lean towards the wall by bending the knee on the leg in front. You will feel the stretch in the calf on the leg that is straight. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
  • Lower Calf Stretch – Using the same position as the stretch above, this time you should bend the back leg while keeping the heel on the front foot on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
  • Toe Pulls – Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Stretch out a towel and loop it around your toes. Pull the towel towards you. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 3 times.
  • Tip Toe Stretch – Stand next to a sturdy object, such as a table, and stretch up onto your tiptoes. Hold for a count of 3, then return to start. Do this 5 or more times each day.
  • Hamstring Stretch – Put a chair in front of you and place the heel of one foot on the chair. Bend at the waist and try to grab your foot or ankle. You will feel this stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for a count of 20, then switch legs.
  • Quad Stretch – Stand on one leg, keeping your knees close together. You can hold onto a chair or the wall for support if necessary. Grab the toes of the bent leg and pull the leg towards your behind. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other leg.
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Low Back Pain or Sciatica That Occurs During or After Diving

Whether you have chronic low back pain, intermittent back pain, or if your sciatica acts up after a dive, one thing for certain is that you want that pain to stop right now!

Back pain can occur for many reasons. Everything from herniated discs to arthritis, back sprains to compressed (pinched) nerves.

Finding the source of your back pain would be ideal, but some things to consider include:

  • Adjusting the location of the weights can help. Moving them to the front, rather than the back or perhaps putting some weights on the tank or in pockets than on a belt.
  • Consider using open-heel fins with a spring strap for quick and easy fin removal that doesn’t require a lot of bending over.
  • Avoid shore or surf entries as the currents often require constant body movement and repositioning.

If back pain becomes worse or if it is unrelenting, it’s time to seek professional care from your trusted chiropractor.

If sciatica is a problem, the following tips from a can get your sciatic nerve to stop hurting:

  • Practice yoga or Pilates to strengthen the back and core muscles
  • Since the sciatic nerve is inflamed and irritated, consuming natural anti-inflammatories, such as turmeric and fish oil every day can help to keep inflammation under control
  • Consider regular chiropractic care to treat and prevent compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve. Studies show that regular chiropractic care is one of the best ways to treat and prevent sciatica.
  • Get regular massage therapy to keep muscles loose and avoid the tight muscles that tend to cause sciatica

Be aware that you may not even have sciatica, but a condition that feels similarly called piriformis syndrome. Your chiropractor can tell the difference and can guide you towards healing whichever problem you are experiencing.

Taking good care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and keeping muscles flexible through regular stretching can go a long way towards years of enjoyable diving experiences.

About Dr. Brent Wells:

Dr. Brent Wells is a licensed chiropractor who founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. His clinic is currently leading 10,000 Alaskans to more active and pain-free lifestyles without drugs or invasive surgeries. It brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care, physical rehab therapy and chiropractic massage.

I hope you enjoyed this guest post on scuba diving and cramps. And most importantly, that it will help you avoid those cramps in the first place! Here’s wishing you all cramp free dives!

Want to stay down longer and improve your buoyancy control and other diving skills? Our free report “Increase Your Bottom Time” along with our practical, weekly actionable tips will have you looking like a seasoned diver in no time. So come join us and see improvement on your very next dive!
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Floating Feet

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artist

Registered

I recently got OW certified. I have read on several threads discussions about floating feet. Is this a common newbie problem or for some people more than others.

I had problems decending without having my feet float up. My instructor just kept telling me to push my feet down. That was until we did the neutral bouyancy test where you float with arms and legs crossed in the middle of the water. When I assumed this pose I immediately went upside down. I did not float or sink but I did complete this exercise with my feet facing the sky and my head to the bottom of the pool.

When we went to the ocean they decided I should wear 2lb ankle weights. This solved my floating feet problem and was comfortable in water, although a pain on land.

Is this a factor of having extra boyant fins, air in by booties, weak leg muscles. Inquiring minds want to know.

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diver_paula

Contributor

My feet did float a bit when I used fins that floated. Loved the fins – they’d sit on the surface while I was getting the other one off. It didn’t bother me that they floated as I wanted to keep them up and off the shipwrecks.

Now I’m in a drysuit with fins that don’t float but am using ankle weights.

Still I’ve never run across anyone who flipped over because of their fins. Are you sure it’s your fins that are causing this? Maybe your BC? Or the placement of your tank in your BC?

Scuba_Jenny

dirty-finned dive goddess

This was just one of many “problems” I had when I was first certified. I thought it was me. I was looking into ankle weights when my LDS threw my fins in the water and they floated! New fins, problem pretty much solved. I got full foot fins so I didn’t have to worry about air in booties either.
I am learning that what works for one person, or even swears by might not work for me. I no longer look at brand names. My custom mask with perscription lenses by major manufacturor leaked like crazy. LDS had cheapo mask that the lense fit. Almost no leaking now. Same scenerio for my first BC. Name brand, used, didn’t fit right. STill with a major brand, but fits and tailored more for my curvey frame.
so, i guess what I am saying, is look to your equipment first. See if the fins float, try different styles, you might be surprised at how different they can be. The equipment I got when I first got certified is now in somebody elses basement, and have replaced almost all. (I also purchased second hand, which you may or may not want to do. My instructor also repaired equipment and was able to help me with choosing decent stuff)
Good luck and congratulations on taking the plunge!

“Oh Lord , keep us Safe , ALWAYS SAFE. And keep me PRUDENT , ALWAYS PRUDENT! Thank you so much for this and the Buddies that I dive with. AMEN” RIP Jeano Beano

Doc Intrepid

Contributor

. to discover how little gas you really need inside that suit.

This problem is often experienced by new divers, or by divers new to drysuits. It is usually, (but not always – see ‘floating fins’, above) caused by one general tendency: new divers and divers new to drysuits tend to put too much gas inside the drysuit. They reason “If a little gas makes me warm and comfortable, then more gas will make me even warmer and more comfortable”. This gas shifts around inside the drysuit as the diver’s attitude or ‘trim’ changes. The moving air feels like gerbils running around inside your suit, and makes attaining proper neutral bouyancy and trim very difficult. Every time the diver changes their position in the water, the gas in the suit moves to the highest point. If the highest point happens to be the feet, . you get the point.

The solution is to put as little air or argon inside your suit as possible. Just enough to reduce the squeeze as you descend.

Your undergarment is what keeps you warm. You only need a tiny bit of gas inside the suit – it should feel slightly tight or compressed on you. Not so tight that it hinders movement, but understand that there is a trade-off. The more gas you put in your suit, the more ‘comfortable’ it may feel – but the more difficult it will be to dive! Not only will it be more challenging to attain proper bouyancy and trim at any given depth, but upon ascending the gas in your drysuit will expand, simultaneously with the gas in your bouyancy compensator. You will be trying to dump excess gas from both suit and BC at the same time, adding to the challenges of a smooth and controlled ascent.

Rather than investing in ankle weights, try diving with very little gas inside your suit. Use your BC to achieve and maintain neutral bouyancy. If you practice diving with a bare minimum of gas inside your drysuit, you will find that your ‘floaty feet’ problem will largely go away.

Floating Feet

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world’s largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

artist

Registered

I recently got OW certified. I have read on several threads discussions about floating feet. Is this a common newbie problem or for some people more than others.

I had problems decending without having my feet float up. My instructor just kept telling me to push my feet down. That was until we did the neutral bouyancy test where you float with arms and legs crossed in the middle of the water. When I assumed this pose I immediately went upside down. I did not float or sink but I did complete this exercise with my feet facing the sky and my head to the bottom of the pool.

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When we went to the ocean they decided I should wear 2lb ankle weights. This solved my floating feet problem and was comfortable in water, although a pain on land.

Is this a factor of having extra boyant fins, air in by booties, weak leg muscles. Inquiring minds want to know.

diver_paula

Contributor

My feet did float a bit when I used fins that floated. Loved the fins – they’d sit on the surface while I was getting the other one off. It didn’t bother me that they floated as I wanted to keep them up and off the shipwrecks.

Now I’m in a drysuit with fins that don’t float but am using ankle weights.

Still I’ve never run across anyone who flipped over because of their fins. Are you sure it’s your fins that are causing this? Maybe your BC? Or the placement of your tank in your BC?

Scuba_Jenny

dirty-finned dive goddess

This was just one of many “problems” I had when I was first certified. I thought it was me. I was looking into ankle weights when my LDS threw my fins in the water and they floated! New fins, problem pretty much solved. I got full foot fins so I didn’t have to worry about air in booties either.
I am learning that what works for one person, or even swears by might not work for me. I no longer look at brand names. My custom mask with perscription lenses by major manufacturor leaked like crazy. LDS had cheapo mask that the lense fit. Almost no leaking now. Same scenerio for my first BC. Name brand, used, didn’t fit right. STill with a major brand, but fits and tailored more for my curvey frame.
so, i guess what I am saying, is look to your equipment first. See if the fins float, try different styles, you might be surprised at how different they can be. The equipment I got when I first got certified is now in somebody elses basement, and have replaced almost all. (I also purchased second hand, which you may or may not want to do. My instructor also repaired equipment and was able to help me with choosing decent stuff)
Good luck and congratulations on taking the plunge!

“Oh Lord , keep us Safe , ALWAYS SAFE. And keep me PRUDENT , ALWAYS PRUDENT! Thank you so much for this and the Buddies that I dive with. AMEN” RIP Jeano Beano

Doc Intrepid

Contributor

. to discover how little gas you really need inside that suit.

This problem is often experienced by new divers, or by divers new to drysuits. It is usually, (but not always – see ‘floating fins’, above) caused by one general tendency: new divers and divers new to drysuits tend to put too much gas inside the drysuit. They reason “If a little gas makes me warm and comfortable, then more gas will make me even warmer and more comfortable”. This gas shifts around inside the drysuit as the diver’s attitude or ‘trim’ changes. The moving air feels like gerbils running around inside your suit, and makes attaining proper neutral bouyancy and trim very difficult. Every time the diver changes their position in the water, the gas in the suit moves to the highest point. If the highest point happens to be the feet, . you get the point.

The solution is to put as little air or argon inside your suit as possible. Just enough to reduce the squeeze as you descend.

Your undergarment is what keeps you warm. You only need a tiny bit of gas inside the suit – it should feel slightly tight or compressed on you. Not so tight that it hinders movement, but understand that there is a trade-off. The more gas you put in your suit, the more ‘comfortable’ it may feel – but the more difficult it will be to dive! Not only will it be more challenging to attain proper bouyancy and trim at any given depth, but upon ascending the gas in your drysuit will expand, simultaneously with the gas in your bouyancy compensator. You will be trying to dump excess gas from both suit and BC at the same time, adding to the challenges of a smooth and controlled ascent.

Rather than investing in ankle weights, try diving with very little gas inside your suit. Use your BC to achieve and maintain neutral bouyancy. If you practice diving with a bare minimum of gas inside your drysuit, you will find that your ‘floaty feet’ problem will largely go away.

Source https://www.scuba-diving-smiles.com/scuba-diving-and-cramps.html

Source https://scubaboard.com/community/threads/floating-feet.33903/#:~:text=Rather%20than%20investing%20in%20ankle%20weights,%20try%20diving,your%20’floaty%20feet’%20problem%20will%20largely%20go%20away.

Source https://scubaboard.com/community/threads/floating-feet.33903/

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