It is very difficult to figure out the exact cause of a leg cramp. Many medical experts suggest the problem lies in a lack of certain vitamins and minerals that keep muscles working properly. Others point to dehydration as a probable cause. Still others maintain that excess weight, electrolyte or hormonal imbalances, and/or the use of certain medications can be responsible for leg cramps. Another common cause of leg cramps is thought to be muscle fatigue from overexertion. Less frequently mentioned is the fact that poor circulation, and nerve and muscle diseases may play a role.
If you suffer from leg cramps, determining the cause may help a lot in trying to find a successful cure. Try to figure out if your leg cramps tend to happen after a day of exercise, a day of not eating healthy, or just after you have taken some heart medication. You can find important clues about your leg cramps by paying attention to when they happen.
Next, make sure you have these key vitamins and minerals to keep your muscles working smoothly.
Calcium is needed for muscle contraction and blood vessel contraction. The recommended daily intake (RDI) for calcium is 1,200 milligrams/day for those 51 and older. Make sure you’re getting at least this much if you suffer from leg cramps. Be cautious about drinking lots of milk, however, to boost your calcium intake. Milk has been known to cause leg cramps in certain individuals.
Magnesium is needed to relax your nerves and muscles. You also need magnesium to keep your blood circulating smoothly. In fact, magnesium works together with calcium to regulate nerves and muscles. It acts as a sort of gate keeper for nerve cells. If you have enough of the mineral, calcium can’t get into your nerve cells and activate them. If you are deficient in magnesium, this blocking mechanism can fail and your nerve cells can become over-activated, causing muscle spasms and cramps. Proper amounts of magnesium and calcium together are needed for your muscles to respond in a balanced way. The RDI for magnesium is 420 mg for men over the age of 30 and 320 mg for women over the age of 30. Pumpkin seeds, spinach, and Swiss chard are all excellent sources of magnesium.
Potassium plays a big role in smooth muscle contraction. The proper balance of potassium in your body depends on sodium. If you consume a lot of salt, you may have depleted your stores of this important mineral. Many find relief from leg cramps by eating a banana just before bed. Other good sources of potassium include avocados and dried apricots. The RDI for potassium is 2,000 mg.
You’ve heard this advice before when it comes to other troubles such as digestive problems: drink eight to 10 glasses of water per day. Your muscles are equally affected by dehydration. They can quickly lose power, and many medical experts believe dehydration will increase your risk of suffering from nighttime cramps. You may find that this simple solution is all you need to keep muscles from painfully and suddenly contracting.