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Cramps are sudden, involuntary, and localized contractions of a muscle with a visible cramps in the legs 1 Canadian Academy of Sports Nutrition caasnor palpable hardening of the muscle. Cramps are most commonly seen in the leg muscles, especially in the calves. They are painful and last usually few minutes. A leg cramp is sometimes known as “Charley horse” among public. Some people may experience it nighttime, which is called “nocturnal leg cramp”.

Potential contributing factors:

1) Strenuous exercise and muscle fatigue.

2) Dehydration.

3) Electrolyte imbalances, especially magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium.

4) Nutritional deficiencies, especially vitamin B group.

5) Medications: statins, corticosteroids, diuretics, birth control pills, and medications for high blood pressure.

6) Abnormal anatomy of the lower extremity, for example, flat feet.

7) Alcohol abuse.

8) Medical conditions: low function thyroid, diabetes, kidney failure, Addison’s disease, Parkinson`s disease, hypoglycemia, restless leg syndrome, varicose veins, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

9) Pregnancy.

10) Diarrhea.

11) Obesity.

Immediate Approach to Relieve Cramp:

1) Stretch the affected muscle.

2) Apply direct compression to the cramp.

3) Apply cold compress to reduce pain.

4) Massage the affected muscle with lavender oil.

5) Apply heat post – cramp.

Recommended Dietary Changes:

1) Avoid or at least decrease your intake of alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, and salt.

2) Drink plenty of water: at least 2 – 3 liters throughout the day.

3) Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

4) Eat more of foods high in potassium: tomato juice, beet greens, dates, raisins, legumes, tuna fish, papaya and plantain. Also see “Potassium”.

5) Eat more of foods high in magnesium: dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, legumes, seeds, nuts especially almonds, pecans and Brazilian nuts. Also see “Magnesium”.

6) Eat more of foods high in calcium: dairy products. Also see “Calcium”.

7) Have chamomile tea.

Recommended Supplements:

1) Magnesium: 600 mg a day (400 mg at bedtime and 200 mg in the morning).

2) Calcium: 1000-1500 mg a day.

3) Potassium: 100 – 300 mg a day.

4) Co –Enzyme Q 10: 300 mg a day. This may help with muscle aches and cramps resulted from statins medications.

5) Glycine1000 – 2000 mg a day. This amino acid has an inhibitory effect on the nervous system.

6) Vitamin B – Complex: A high potency product.

Abazar Habibinia, MD, DFN, CSDT

Executive Director of Canadian Academy of Sports Nutrition

Updated on November 11, 2019