Have you experienced the dreaded leg cramp?
Have you ever been running in a five-kilometre park run event and bam that awful calf cramp hits! Or have tried to nod off at midnight and your hamstrings just don’t want to settle unless you move! It’s quite an awful feeling isn’t it!
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and leg cramps are frequent conditions that affect the general population, including athletes, people who exercise, pregnant women, older people and children (1,2,3). Patients can often suffer distressing sensations in the legs, particularly at night-time in the calf or hamstring muscles. Patients report a consistent urge to move that only dissipates while stretching or moving. This often creates disrupted sleep patterns and therefore contributes to fatigue and other health challenges as well (3).
Leg cramps, at rest or during exercise, are characterised by abrupt muscle contraction, most often in the hamstring, quadriceps, calf muscles, feet and toes, and are often painful (2,3). The diagnosis of these uncomfortable disorders has presented a challenge for health care providers as symptoms do overlap with other nervous system and sensory issues (2). While research has been conducted there is no clear treatment option or approach, however magnesium as a natural treatment option may have some benefits to help sufferers in their treatment approaches (2, 4).
How does magnesium help alleviate conditions like leg cramps?
Magnesium is an important mineral that plays a role in neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction. If the balance of minerals (calcium, potassium and magnesium) and electrolytes in our bodies is not correct then our muscles are more susceptible to cramping, like when we are exercising or when we are trying to sleep. It is preposed that magnesium can play a vital role in alleviating these symptoms by relieving mild muscle spasms while supporting healthy muscle function and relaxation. Magnesium’s other important benefits include supporting heart health and aiding in energy production (5).
Can my diet and fluid intake play a role in increasing magnesium stores and reducing leg cramps?
Yes, it most certainly does! Magnesium is found in fibre rich plant sources particularly green leafy vegetables (spinach and broccoli), legumes (black beans and edamame beans), nuts (almonds, cashews, and peanuts), seeds (sunflower) and whole grains (oats, quinoa and fortified breakfast cereals) just for some examples. Yoghurt and milk are great dairy sources while animal protein sources such as salmon and chicken breast are also great options. Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also provide liquid sources of magnesium. For other food sources rich in magnesium check out this great link!.
Can other options help reduce leg cramp symptoms?
Drinking more water, less caffeine and minimising alcohol alongside the use of other therapy forms such as massage therapy, yoga, stretching, ice and/or heat packs, and reducing stress levels are other suggested ways to help manage leg cramp and RLS symptoms (7,8,9)
Check out the Green Nutritionals Magnesium Capsules, Green Nutritionals Magnesium Powder or Amazing Oils products to help with your muscle relaxation and getting settled in for a good restful night’s sleep!
- Dahle, L., Berg, G., Hammar, M., Hurtig, M., & Larsson, L. (1995). The effect of oral magnesium substitution on pregnancy-induced leg cramps. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 173(1), 175–180. https://doi.org/10.1016/0002-9378(95)90186-8
- Roffe, C., Sills, S., Crome, P., & Jones, P. (2002). Randomised, cross-over, placebo controlled trial of magnesium citrate in the treatment of chronic persistent leg cramps. Medical Science Monitor : International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 8(5), CR326–CR330.
- Tipton, P., & Wszołek, Z. (2017). Restless legs syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps: A review and guide to diagnosis and treatment. Polish Archives of Internal Medicine, 127(12), 865–872. https://doi.org/10.20452/pamw.4148
- Guerrera, M. P., Volpe, S. L., & Mao, J. J. (2009). Therapeutic uses of magnesium. American Physician, 80(2), 157–162.
- Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Agarwal, P., Williams, K., & Flack, K. L. (2013). Efficacy of an eight-week yoga intervention on symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS): A pilot study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(6), 527–535. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2012.0330