Natural Ways to Stop Leg Cramps

Natural Ways to Stop Leg Cramps

Many people suffer with occasional or chronic leg cramps. There are various reasons a muscle cramp may occur and trying to stop it, on your own, can be possible. Although some of these cramps can happen at night there are other times this painful response can occur, such as running, walking, or sitting for long periods. These natural ways to stop leg cramps could be easy fixes that get you out of pain fast. 

Magnesium Supplement

The mineral magnesium has been linked to supporting muscle health and reducing spasms in pregnant women. However, although there needs to be more studies conducted on the effects of magnesium on nocturnal and activity related muscle cramping, observational studies and personal testimonials find that many people recommend it. 

Magnesium deficiency can happen to anyone but it is more likely to occur if you are highly active as excessive sweating can deplete your body of magnesium. Muscle cramps and twitches are one sign of magnesium deficiency, other signs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Osteoporosis
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat

Good levels of food-sourced magnesium are:

  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens
  • Soy milk
  • Spinach
  • Shredded wheat cereal

If you want to take magnesium supplements make sure you are cleared by your doctor as some medications can be contraindicated. Healthline recommends the following magnesium supplement dosage:

  • 400–420 milligrams a day for men
  • 310–320 mg a day for women
  • 350–360 mg a day for pregnant women

Stretch it Out

One of the best ways to stop a cramp in its tracks is to give it the right stretch. According to a Harvard Medical School post, physical therapist Madhuri Kale at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital commented, “When it suddenly strikes, don’t exercise or tighten the muscle. Just gently stretch it to your tolerance. That helps to relax the muscle and relieve the uncontrolled contraction,”

Kale recommends the following stretches to stop leg cramps:

Nighttime leg cramps in the calf – Sit up in bed, loop a sheet or blanket around your foot and gently pull your toes toward you while you keep the knee straight.

Cramps in the front of the lower leg – Stand up at the side of the bed, put your weight on your toes, and lift your heels; this gently stretches the cramped muscle.

Hamstring cramps (in the back of the thigh) – Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Bending your torso, slide your hands down your legs until you feel a burning sensation in the cramped muscle. Hold for 30 seconds, then slowly return to a sitting position.

A heating pad or wet heat application is recommended by Kale after you’ve stretched the muscle. Add in gentle massage and blood flow will be increased bringing oxygen and nutrients to the muscle preventing further episodes.

Exercise and Electrolytes

Whether you are an athlete, gym rat, weekend warrior, or occasional workout attendee there is always a cramp on the horizon. Although it is recommended to hydrate before, during, and after a workout, (especially high cardio), water may not be the best choice due to electrolyte loss. 

According to Cedars-Sinai clinical dietitians, Erika Der Sarkissian and Christina Fasulo, who explain electrolytes,

“Electrolytes are essential minerals—like sodium, calcium, and potassium—that are vital to many key functions in the body. They do a lot in the body. They regulate muscle contractions and keep you hydrated. Electrolytes also help balance your pH levels (the measure of acidity and alkalinity). Signs of electrolyte imbalance includes: fatigue, headache, nausea, blood pressure changes, muscle cramps, low energy, and simply not feeling well.”

In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine titled, ‘Effect of oral rehydration solution versus spring water intake during exercise in the heat on muscle cramp susceptibility of young men’,

“It was concluded that spring water intake during exercise in the heat increased muscle cramp susceptibility after exercise (downhill running), and ingestion of OS-1 [electrolyte formula consisting of potassium, magnesium, chloride, sodium, glucose, and phosphorous] decreased the muscle cramp susceptibility. These were in line with the findings of our previous study, showing that spring water intake after dehydration made muscles more susceptible to muscle cramp, but when OS-1 was consumed, the muscle cramp susceptibility was reduced.”

You can replenish your electrolytes through many sports drink beverages or supplemental powders but the sugar content is often very high along with other added chemicals like dyes. Look for sugar-free choices (that don’t contain chemical sweeteners) and keep them on hand for a quick fix. In the meantime, good foods that contain electrolytes include:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes

These natural ways to stop leg cramps are easy fixes to avoid a painful outcome if otherwise ignored. Keep your body in check and don’t become dehydrated or under-stretched for an optimal cramp-free response.