Leg cramps and spasms can rear their ugly heads at the most inconvenient times—out at the grocery store, during a workout, while running around with the kids at a theme park, or even while laying in bed trying to fall asleep. Some are mild and can ease in minutes, but moderate to severe cases can last for a time and reach the point of feeling unbearable.
Leg cramps are reported in 60 percent of adults and 7 percent of children. While the occasional cramp may cause only slight annoyance, many can feel severe and even cause sleep disturbances—and 20 percent of those enduring regular leg cramps have daily symptoms serious enough for treatment.
Luckily, there are natural remedies that can harmonize your body and help to dispel leg cramps. Let’s review what causes leg cramps and some natural remedies that may help ease your tense muscles.
What are Leg Cramps and Why Do They Happen to Me?
Leg cramps and muscle spasms, also called “Charley horses,” are involuntary contractions of a muscle or group of muscles. When experiencing a leg cramp or spasm, your muscles will tense and clench without any movement from you—you could be sitting still, sipping coffee, or lying down when spasm takes you by surprise. The spasm or cramp will typically stay tight for a period because it’s difficult for the muscles to relax.
Many situations can lead to leg cramps, including the following:
- Magnesium deficiency
- Potassium deficiency
- Pregnancy or menstruation
- Pinched nerve
- Alcohol abuse
- Flat feet
- Poor blood circulation
- Overexertion of calf muscles, especially during exercise
Cramps and spasms are typical in the lower body, and are likely to occur in the feet, calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Thankfully, effective natural remedies may help to make your cramps a thing of the past.
Natural Remedies for Leg Cramps
Magnesium for Leg Cramps
Magnesium, often called the “magic mineral,” regulates the nervous system and balances neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction. The essential mineral acts as a vehicle for calcium and potassium, which is needed for healthy nerve functions and normal muscle contractions.
Studies have shown that those with a magnesium deficiency are more likely to have leg cramps. And around 75 percent of people in the United States don’t eat a diet rich in magnesium and have small to substantial deficiencies. Even those with a well-balanced diet have trouble getting enough magnesium to match suggested daily requirements.
If you’re suffering from leg cramps or muscle spasms, magnesium may be your miracle mineral. Magnesium supplementation has shown to be especially effective in reducing leg cramps and spasms during pregnancy. And apart from soothing leg cramps and spasms, magnesium provides a whole host of other benefits—from lifting moods to calming nerves to giving you better energy during the day and more restful sleep at night.
Warm-ups and Stretching
Staying active is important for warding off disease, prolonging your life, increasing circulation, and a long list of other benefits. But when engaging in any strenuous activity, it’s important to properly warm and cool your muscles to avoid tension.
An effective warm-up can be a 5-10 minute brisk walk or a few minutes spent jogging in place. This will raise the heart rate and prepare the body for activity. And immediately post-workout, you should engage in mindful stretches that concentrate on the muscles used during exercise. Deliberate, long stretches lasting 20-30 seconds on each side of the body should be utilized for 10 or 15 minutes minimum.
Many massage modalities can improve circulation and may help to lessen the effects and frequency of leg cramps and spasms. Deep tissue or Swedish massages can work wonders for stiff, tight muscles, and they have the added benefit of being a powerful mood-booster, as well as profoundly relaxing.
Deep tissue massage can be intense—even painful at times—but generally speaking, they tend to be well worth the trouble (and price of admission).
If you’re prone to leg cramps, it’s a good idea to lay off the alcohol intake and up your water consumption. On average, it’s recommended that the average person consumes approximately eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day—but if you’re sweating a lot or are moderately active, you may need more. Track your water consumption vigorously—dehydrated muscles are prone to cramping, tightness, and discomfort. Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are important for healthy muscle function.