Muscle cramps can be painful and uncomfortable, but they are very common and normal. While they’re not life-threatening, the pain and discomfort can range from mild annoyance to downright debilitating. Fortunately, there are many muscle cramps remedies that can help you find the relief you crave without the unwanted side effects of over-the-counter pain medications. Keep reading to discover some of muscle cramps causes and what natural remedies, like magnesium for muscle cramps, may help!
Muscle Cramps Causes
Muscle cramps can be caused by many things, but in most cases, the cause is unknown. Some of the most common causes of muscle cramps include:
- Overuse of a muscle
- Holding a position for an extended period of time
Muscle cramps are usually harmless, but sometimes, they can be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as:
- Mineral depletion: A mineral deficiency, such as too little magnesium or too little potassium, can cause cramps. Certain types of medication, such as diuretics, can contribute to mineral depletion.
- Narrowing of the arteries: Arteriosclerosis in the arteries that deliver blood to your legs can cause cramping in the feet and legs during exercise. The cramps usually disappear after exercise.
- Compression of the nerves: Compression of the nerves in your spine can cause cramping in the legs that gets worse the longer you walk.
These causes are not common. In most cases, muscle cramps are nothing serious and will pass in a few hours or days.
Risk Factors for Muscle Cramps
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of muscle cramps, such as:
- Dehydration: Vigorous exercise can lead to fatigue and dehydration, which can cause muscle cramps. In general, if you’re not drinking enough water throughout the day, you’re putting yourself at risk for developing muscle cramps.
- Age: As we age, we lose muscle mass. The remaining muscle can easily become overwhelmed and start cramping.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of muscle cramps, such as diabetes, liver disease, and thyroid disorders.
- Pregnancy: It’s not uncommon for women to develop muscle cramps during pregnancy.
Muscle Cramps Remedies
Muscle cramps can be painful, and they can last anywhere from a quarter of a second to 15 seconds or more. When cramps are ongoing, it can make it difficult to carry on with your day.
When cramps keep you from living your life, there are natural muscle cramps remedies that may help you find relief.
If a muscle cramp occurs when you’re in the middle of an exercise or another activity, stop what you’re doing and stretch it out. Stretching is one of the simplest ways to get some relief immediately after the cramping starts.
It’s important to make sure that you’re stretching before and after your workouts to avoid cramps.
Magnesium for Muscle Cramps
Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a role in hundreds of bodily functions, including muscle contractions.
Magnesium is a calcium blocker that helps muscles relax. Calcium binds to proteins in the muscles and changes their shape. When this happens, it causes a contraction. Magnesium interferes with this process so that your muscles stay relaxed.
If your body is deficient in this mineral, calcium has free rein to bind to these proteins and cause contractions, or muscle cramping. This is why magnesium is often recommended for the treatment of muscle cramps.
It’s important to remember that muscle cramps can also be caused by mineral depletion. Magnesium deficiencies are more common today than they once were because we’re eating more processed foods and soils aren’t as nutrient-rich.
Many people incorporate magnesium into their lives using supplements. Magnesium is also available in a topical form! Learn more about how topical magnesium is great for pain here or try our Recovery Cream!
Muscle cramps can be painful, but massage may help. Massages can help alleviate pain while releasing tension in your muscles.
Simply massage the affected muscle whenever a cramp develops. Using a massage oil or cream with pain-relieving ingredients, like CBD or magnesium, can help make this remedy even more effective.
Massage is something that you can perform anywhere and at any time, so it’s a convenient remedy with virtually no risk of side effects.
Apply Ice and Heat
Hot and cold therapy can be very effective at treating persistent muscle cramps. Ice helps alleviate inflammation, while heat helps draw more blood to the area to help stop the contractions.
Alternating between the two can help provide some relief for stubborn cramps.
- Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes at a time, a few times a day. Make sure that the ice pack is wrapped in a towel or cloth. Do not apply an ice pack directly to your skin.
- Apply a heating pad for 15-20 minutes at a time. Ideally, it’s best to follow heat therapy with an ice pack.
If you don’t have a heating pad, you can try taking a warm bath or shower or soaking in a hot tub to relax your muscles.
Muscle cramps are often the result of dehydration. An intense workout or the summer heat can lead to dehydration that contributes to painful spasms.
How much water should you drink? That depends on your activity level, but as a general rule of thumb, the following amounts are recommended:
- 91 ounces for women (about 11 glasses)
- 125 ounces for men (about 15 and a half glasses)
Keep in mind that food also counts towards hydration. About 80% of your water intake can come from beverages, like water, while the other 20% can come from food.
How to Prevent Muscle Cramps
If you find yourself dealing with muscle cramps regularly, it’s time to take steps to prevent them in the future. Prevention usually comes down to making a few lifestyle changes.
Here's how to prevent muscle cramps.
Many people (up to 60% of adults) suffer from nighttime leg cramps. Doing some light, gentle exercises before bed may help keep these cramps at bay.
Light exercise can include:
- Going for a walk.
- Walking up and down stairs.
- Using a stationary bike or rowing machine.
Don’t overdo it. Performing moderate to intense exercise before bed can actually disrupt your sleep. Keep it light – just enough to get the blood flowing.
Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a natural diuretic, which can rob your muscles of the hydration they need to stay flexible. Lowering your intake of caffeine can help prevent muscle cramps caused by dehydration.
This may mean lowering your consumption of:
- Energy drinks
If you’re a regular coffee or tea drinker, reduce your consumption slowly to reduce the risk of withdrawal symptoms, which can include:
There’s no need to cut out caffeine entirely (although you can), but if you consume an excessive amount of caffeine, lowering your consumption can help reduce the risk of muscle cramps.
Stretching Before and After Workouts
Taking the time to stretch before and after your workouts can help prevent cramping and injuries.
Stretching helps keep your muscles flexible and strong. Without regular stretching, muscles can become overly tight and shortened, and that can lead to muscle cramping while exercising.
Daily stretching, even in between workouts, can be helpful in preventing cramps while also keeping your muscles flexible and healthy.
The Bottom Line
Although they can be painful and uncomfortable, muscle cramps are very common and normal. If they persist, see your doctor to make sure there is no serious underlying cause. But most people will find that the remedies above can help ease symptoms.