Leg Cramps: What Causes & How to Stop When it Happens

We believe that there is no single person that has not struggled with this unpleasant phenomenon. That means that you are certainly familiar with this aching sensation, but do you know why spasms occur, how to avoid them and how to help yourself when they occur?

Muscle spasms or cramps are quite normal and they also affect individuals who are not as physically active as athletes. They are not necessarily associated with intense physical activity and muscle exhaustion, but spasms are generally more common in athletes or people who do sports.


We believe that having in mind the real info regarding spasms, you will sure avoid or treat them more easily.

If you have ever had a muscle spasm, then you probably know that they can be either quite painful or slightly milder. Sometimes spasm are so strong, that they cause even bruises because capillaries are too tightened.

Spasms are involuntary (without your control) muscle contractions and occur in any skeletal muscle. They last for a few seconds or several minutes.

Why do muscle spasms occur?

Muscle spasms can be really nasty and the reasons for their occurrence still remain unclear. However, experts have accepted several factors like changes in neuromuscular control, dehydration, altered metabolism of electrolytes (ions necessary for implementation of electrical impulses in muscles), changes in exercises targeting a particular group of muscles, muscle strains or degenerative changes.

You are likely to deal with spasms if you exercise in hot rooms or hot weather and your body sweats more than usual, excreting electrolytes through sweat.

Aside certain physiological states of the body that has an increased need of specific electrolytes for normal growth and development, regular athletes are part of a vulnerable group and need to pay more attention to the intake of proper electrolytes.

If you do a research on your own, trying to learn more about spasms, you will sure notice that almost every article regarding this topic condemns magnesium deficiency as the main reason.

However, do not forget that, as mentioned above, science still has no explanation regarding this issue, so you cannot say it is magnesium that controls mechanisms. It is true that frequent spasms are a symptom of magnesium deficiency, but  potassium, calcium and sodium are also part of the electrolyte group of metals that are essential for normal muscle function.

If your aching spasms occur as a result of vitamin or mineral deficiency, you may lack magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. As we already said, human body loses electrocytes through sweating, but sometimes even drugs such as diuretics can cause your body to lose essential minerals.

Magnesium plays an important role in metabolism of carbs, proteins and fat. It also participates in muscle and nervous stimulation, acting as calcium channel blocker.

Calcium tightens muscles, while magnesium relaxes tissues. Therefore, muscles cannot relax if your body lacks magnesium. Recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300mg, and 450 mg for nursing mothers and pregnant women.

Where do spasms commonly occur?

Muscle spasms commonly affect calf, foot, both its inner and outer side, and thighs. They are less common in abdominal muscles, shoulder and arms.

Muscle spasms do not pose a serious threat to your health and disappear without any special treatment, leaving latent pain that fades away. Muscle spasm is a severe and strong contraction of the affected muscle and stretching or massages can really help relieving it.

How to prevent their occurrence?

People who exercise “waste” their muscles (positively, of course) and therefore expose their bodies to a greater loss of key electrolytes and, of course, water.

The appearance of cramps in athletes is specifically associated with dehydration and loss of electrolytes through sweating. It is therefore particularly important to drink enough water during your workout. Drink oligomineral water as it has a balanced ratio of essential electrolytes; isotonic drinks are also great.

Also, in cases of “overtraining,” when your workout is exhausting and intense, cramps partially indicate weakness in which case, you should have a good meal rich in magnesium, calcium and plenty of water, and also rest for a few days.

Beginners should not panic. Consider spasms as a “welcome” in sport and slowly stretch your muscle. Muscles react to any change, regardless of whether you exercise regularly or do not really fancy physical activities.

What should you do?

Muscle spasms usually require no special treatment, but you a few simple tips can be of great help.

Prepare your body before every workout to avoid muscle spasms. Strethcing is pretty much all you have to do. It will also protect you from injuries.

If you experience a muscle spasm during your workout, stop doing your exercise and stretch your muscle. Extend and stretch your leg. Keep it in this position until the spasm disappears. Massage it gently and it should be soon gone. Of course, this should be no reason to stop your training.

Do not forget to drink plenty of water and fill up your electrolyte depots after. Consume calcium and magnesium supplements, but make sure you consult a pharmacist or doctor first.

Food is the best source of electrolytes. Cheese and milk are excellent sources of calcium and sodium, banana are rich in potassium, and magnesium is found in almonds and dark chocolate (high cocoa content). Foods rich in magnesium will sure reduce your cramps, especially if they occure while you are sleeping.

In case you “combine” chocolate and almonds, be fair to yourselves, and next time you go to the gym, try a bit harder.