Muscle cramps occur when one or more muscles involuntarily contract and do not relax. Several factors can be involved, whether it is strenuous activity or dehydration. Most muscle cramps are a direct response to the body's deficiencies in potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium because these minerals help regulate the activity of your nerves and muscles. Learning to use minerals to relieve muscle cramps can help you feel better and get back to your usual activities.
Method 1 of 2: Consume minerals to relieve cramps
Step 1. Add sodium to your diet
Sodium plays an important role in the prevention or treatment of muscle cramps. This is because it helps regulate the contraction and relaxation of muscles in the body.
- Although sodium is an important part of your diet, excessive consumption can cause high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and congestive heart failure.
- In general, healthcare professionals recommend keeping daily sodium intake below 2300 mg per day or 1500 mg for people over 50 years of age. People with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney problems should also reduce their daily sodium intake.
- Common dietary sources of sodium include all vegetables and dairy products, as well as meat and seafood.
Step 2. Increase your intake of magnesium
Magnesium is one of the many minerals your body needs for proper muscle function. Studies of muscle cramps and magnesium are inconclusive, although one study found significant improvement in pregnant women with muscle cramps.
- Food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans or legumes, and grains.
- A diet that is too high in fat can reduce your body's ability to absorb magnesium.
- Over-the-counter magnesium supplements are available at most drugstores.
Step 3. Eat more potassium
Low potassium levels, also called hypokalaemia, can affect your muscles' ability to function properly. By consuming more, you can naturally relieve muscle cramps.
- Food sources of potassium include squash, potatoes, spinach, lentils, beans, bananas, and cantaloupe.
- Over-the-counter potassium supplements are available at most drugstores.
Step 4. Take in more calcium
Calcium is required for proper muscle function. Finding ways to increase your calcium levels can help relieve your cramps.
- Vitamin D is necessary for proper absorption of calcium. You can find it in foods like salmon and egg yolks, or when you are in the sun.
- Calcium is found in green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and cabbage, but also milk, soy milk and some fortified fruit juices.
- Calcium supplements are also available at most drugstores. Nonetheless, some studies suggest that they can cause kidney stones and other health risks that outweigh the potential benefits. Ask your doctor for advice before taking or taking any supplement.
Method 2 of 2: Take a mineral bath
Step 1. Take a warm bath
Studies show that a bath can improve blood circulation and relax tight, cramped muscles. Make sure the water is not too hot, to avoid burns and discomfort.
Step 2. Add Epsom salt
Epsom salt, which is made from magnesium sulfate, is a popular soaking solution for sore or cramped muscles. Add between 250 and 500 mg of salt to 3.5 l of water in the tub.
Step 3. Immerse yourself in the mineral bath
If you wish, you can completely immerse your body in the Epsom salt bath. However, you should at least fully submerge the part of your body that is prone to muscle cramps. Stay in the tub for a dozen minutes to experience the relaxing effects of the mineral bath.
Ask your doctor how long and how often it is safe to soak in an Epsom salt bath
Step 4. Prepare an Epsom salt compress
If you don't want to immerse yourself in a bathtub, you can prepare a compress using the same amounts as for a bath. All you need to do is soak a clean towel in the Epsom salt bath and apply it directly to the cramped muscle.
- If you sweat a lot, opt for an energy drink that can restore your electrolyte balance.
- Cramps are often caused by dehydration. If you get cramped often, drink more water.
- If you have cramps while exercising, drink at least 2 cups of water before each workout. Continue to hydrate throughout your workout.
- When you are finished exercising, be sure to cool down by jogging and stretching. If you have cramps, rest and stretch.
- If you experience slight relief, but not full control after eating more bananas, prunes, etc., talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Supplements in tablet form can be purchased inexpensively from supermarkets or from your usual pharmacy. Your pharmacist can recommend a dosage and you can try adding supplements one at a time until you find a combination that works best.
- Usually, muscle cramps are temporary and do not cause permanent damage. However, contact a doctor if the cramp or spasm lasts more than a day or if it continues to bother you despite these measures.
- If your leg cramps are severe and chronic, see your doctor. If you think you have Restless Legs Syndrome, ask them about new drugs developed especially to treat this painful and debilitating condition.
- Some cholesterol medications (like Lipitor or Simvastatin) cause a serious side effect called rhabdomyolysis. This means they destroy muscle and can cause serious damage if you keep taking them. If you have muscle cramps for no apparent reason and are taking a statin for your cholesterol, talk to your doctor right away.