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Unveiling the Crucial Role of Magnesium in Alleviating Muscle Cramps

If you have ever woken up in the middle of the night with a sharp, painful muscle contraction, probably in your leg, then know how painful a cramp can be when you’re least expecting it. Cramps can happen to any muscle, but they are most common in the lower leg. Cramps can happen while you sleep, while exercising, or even while resting. Preventing cramps is important for providing relief from pain and improving your quality of life. Let’s learn more about what cramps are and how magnesium can help relieve them.

What are Cramps?

Cramps are sudden and severe contractions of your muscles. You do not control them and they can be extremely painful. These cramps are usually in the calf muscle. You may feel a hard knot when your muscles are cramping. Cramps can be caused by overexertion or medication. You are also more likely to get cramps if you are dehydrated, pregnant or getting older. Fortunately, cramps are usually not serious, only last a few seconds and can be treated at home.

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral that your body needs to survive. It helps your body function in just about every way, from keeping a regular heart beat to strengthening bones. It is also responsible for working with the enzymes in your body to convert carbs to energy, make protein, and regulate the nervous system. Without magnesium, your body would stop working.

Magnesium is present throughout your body and you should regularly include it in your diet. You can get magnesium through food or through supplements. Some magnesium rich foods include dark chocolate, green, leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. You can also get magnesium from beans and some fish.

Magnesium and Muscle Cramps: The Connection

The connection between magnesium and muscle cramps lies in the mineral's role in muscle contractions. Our muscles contract when the calcium floods into the muscle cells. They relax when calcium is pumped out, and magnesium goes in. Hence, insufficient magnesium can result in excess calcium staying in the cells, causing the muscle to remain in a contracted state – leading to cramps.

Moreover, magnesium also promotes the absorption and proper use of other minerals like sodium and potassium, which are essential for muscle health and function.

How can Magnesium Help Cramps?

Magnesium plays an important role in making muscles move. It tells the neurons in your brain to both contract and relax muscles. Magnesium also helps fuel muscles by giving them fuel and taking away lactic acid when you exercise. If your magnesium levels are low, then you are much more likely to experience muscle cramps since they may not be fueled properly or are not getting the right signals from the brain to contract and relax. In fact, muscle cramps are one of the most common signs of a magnesium deficiency. Your cramps could also be a sign of inflammation. If so, magnesium can help calm the inflammation and relieve pain.

You may be deficient in magnesium if you are on diuretics, dehydrated or simply not eating the right foods. When this happens, it is important to increase your magnesium intake. You can do this by adding more magnesium rich foods to your diet or taking supplements. Supplements are usually safe to take but it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor in case there is any interference with other medications you take. Some magnesium supplements can also be hard on your stomach, so start with a dose lower than recommended and work your way up.

The Research Evidence

Several scientific studies validate the role of magnesium in mitigating muscle cramps. One such research piece published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research found that pregnant women who supplemented with magnesium experienced fewer leg cramps. Another study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology corroborates these findings, emphasizing the importance of magnesium in muscle cramp prevention.

 

No one wants to experience muscle cramps. Making sure you have plenty of magnesium in your body will help avoid this painful experience. Eat a diet full of magnesium rich foods and supplement when necessary. Your entire body will function better and you’ll be less likely have any more painful cramps waking you up at night.

 

Summary

1. Relaxes muscles: Magnesium plays a vital role in muscle relaxation. It helps to regulate muscle contractions by balancing calcium levels, which is responsible for muscle contractions. When magnesium levels are adequate, it can prevent involuntary contractions and spasms, thus reducing cramps.

2. Maintains electrolyte balance: Magnesium is one of the key electrolytes in the body. It helps maintain a proper balance of electrolytes, which is essential for normal muscle function and preventing cramps.

3. Supports energy production: Magnesium is involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary source of energy for cells. Adequate magnesium levels can help ensure that muscles have sufficient energy to function properly, reducing the likelihood of cramps.

4. Reduces inflammation: Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties. By reducing inflammation in the muscles, magnesium can help alleviate muscle pain and discomfort associated with cramps.

5. Supports nerve function: Magnesium is crucial for proper nerve function, as it helps in the transmission of nerve signals. This ensures proper communication between nerves and muscles, preventing muscle cramps and spasms.

6. Prevents calcium buildup: Magnesium helps to regulate calcium levels in the body. When magnesium levels are low, calcium can accumulate in the muscles, leading to stiffness and cramps. By ensuring adequate magnesium intake, you can help prevent calcium buildup and cramps.

7. Improves blood circulation: Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, improving blood flow to muscles. Better circulation can help deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to muscles, reducing the risk of cramps.

8. Aids in muscle recovery: Magnesium can help speed up muscle recovery after exercise or physical activity. This can reduce muscle soreness and the likelihood of cramps.

9. Alleviates menstrual cramps: Some studies have shown that magnesium can help alleviate menstrual cramps by relaxing the uterine muscles and reducing the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that can cause pain and inflammation.

10. Magnesium deficiency and cramps: A deficiency in magnesium can lead to muscle cramps and spasms, as it disrupts the normal functioning of muscles and nerves. Ensuring adequate magnesium intake can help prevent cramps and support overall muscle health.

Magnesium Information

For everything you need to know about magnesium and magnesium supplements, check out our comprehensive information page here.

Magnesium Information

Magnesium

We’ve created a magnesium supplement with a combination of three types of highly absorbable magnesium at a therapeutic dose. Our magnesium comes as an easy to mix, great tasting powder to ensure optimal absorption. To learn more about our magnesium, check out the product page here.

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Author

Ron Goedeke MD, BSc Hons MBChB, FNZCAM

Dr. Ron Goedeke, an expert in the domain of functional medicine, dedicates his practice to uncovering the root causes of health issues by focusing on nutrition and supplement-based healing and health optimisation strategies. An esteemed founding member of the New Zealand College of Appearance Medicine, Dr. Goedeke's professional journey has always been aligned with cutting-edge health concepts.

Having been actively involved with the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine since 1999, he brings over two decades of knowledge and experience in the field of anti-aging medicine, making him an eminent figure in this evolving realm of healthcare. Throughout his career, Dr. Goedeke has been steadfast in his commitment to leverage appropriate nutritional guidance and supplementation to encourage optimal health.

This has allowed him to ascend as one of the most trusted authorities in the arena of nutritional medicine in New Zealand. His expertise in the intricate relationship between diet, nutritional supplements, and overall health forms the backbone of his treatment approach, allowing patients to benefit from a balanced and sustainable pathway to improved wellbeing.

References
  1. Garrison, S. R., Allan, G. M., Sekhon, R. K., Musini, V. M., & Khan, K. M. (2012). Magnesium for skeletal muscle cramps. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2012(9), CD009402. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009402.pub2

    This systematic review and meta-analysis conclude that magnesium might be a beneficial treatment option for muscle cramps.

  2. Supakatisant, C., & Phupong, V. (2015). Oral magnesium for relief in pregnancy-induced leg cramps: a randomised controlled trial. Maternal & child nutrition, 11(2), 139–145. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12064

    This randomized controlled trial demonstrated that magnesium supplementation could significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of leg cramps in pregnant women.

  3. Dahle, L. O., 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 Gynecology, 173(1), 175-180. doi:10.1016/0002-9378(95)90186-8

    This study found that oral magnesium supplementation was effective in alleviating pregnancy-induced leg cramps.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns about your health. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice because of something you have heard or read on this website


Last update 13th April 2023

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