Common Nutritional Deficiencies Linked to Muscle Cramps in Legs

Cramps are painful but common involuntary muscle contractions. Muscle cramps can affect different parts of the body; in the leg, they can occur anywhere from the foot to the calf. They can happen to anyone, but are particularly common in athletes, older adults and pregnant women. They're often associated with nutritional deficiencies or other health issues.

Cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that can be very painful.
Credit: KeremYucel/iStock/GettyImages

Read More: 5 Things You Need to Know About Leg Cramps

Muscle Cramps and Vitamin Deficiency

Nearly everyone has experienced a muscle cramp at some point. These unpleasant spasms are known for being involuntary, unexpected and painful and are related to a wide range of different health issues, including nutritional deficiencies. Leg cramps are more common in women than in men, and they typically increase as people age.

Muscle cramps have historically been treated with supplements. Vitamins for leg cramps include B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K2. Other nutritional supplements used to treat muscle cramps include magnesium and the amino acid, taurine.

Muscle cramps and spasms, like a charley horse in your calf, are well-known for occurring during or after people have exercised. These types of cramps and spasms are usually related to exertion and heat exposure. They often occur following an electrolyte imbalance.

Nutritional Supplements to Treat Cramps

Muscle cramps, especially in your legs, can occur for many different reasons, resulting in many scientific studies reporting mixed findings on the value of using nutritional supplements to prevent or treat them. Vitamins and minerals for muscle spasms almost always work, but finding the right one to use as a treatment is a more complicated matter. There is no standard treatment for leg cramps, even for common ones, like those related to pregnancy.

Historically, muscle cramps were often caused by vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin D deficiency caused numbness and tingling in the limbs that could lead to spasms, then cramps. These days, however, vitamin D supplementation hasn't been shown to resolve muscle cramps, even in people with low vitamin D levels.

Magnesium is now one of the most common nutritional deficiencies associated with muscle cramps. Oral magnesium has been shown to alleviate the frequency and intensity of muscle cramps in pregnant women and athletes, but it may not help older adults who suffer from these annoying and painful incidents.

Vitamin E has also been found helpful in treating muscle cramps — administered alone or along with other medications.

Electrolyte deficiencies and dehydration can also cause muscle cramps. If you're exercising or sweating, be sure to drink water and make sure your electrolyte levels, especially those of sodium, are in check. Keeping your electrolytes balanced will allow you to rehydrate your body more effectively and prevent muscle cramps.

Although other vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements and medications are often given to treat muscle cramps, they often aren't very effective or don't help at all. Talk with your doctor if you're experiencing muscle cramps so you can work out the treatment that's best for you.

Read More: Supplements for Muscle Cramps

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
references
Load Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.