Leg Pain from Low Potassium

Many different factors can cause leg pain. Muscle fatigue, shin splints, atherosclerosis, blood clots, nerve damage, arthritis, gout, osteomyelitis and varicose veins are some of the causes. But perhaps the most common causes of leg pain are related to diet or dehydration. A mineral deficiency can cause leg pain, and potassium is one of the minerals sometimes at fault.

Young woman holding her leg in pain. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Potassium Function

Potassium is important for muscle function, both in the muscles you control, such as your biceps and hamstrings, and those you don't, such as the muscles that enable your heart to beat and your digestive system to push waste through your intestines for excretion. Potassium is also important for maintaining the balance of water in your body, which has an effect on blood pressure. The transmission of impulses between nerves also relies on adequate potassium.

Potassium Deficiency

When you are low in potassium, the muscles that rely upon it are adversely affected. As a result, you may experience heart arrhythmia, intestinal bloating and fatigue in addition to muscle cramps that can affect your legs. While potassium deficiency is a cause of leg pain, it is important to be diagnosed by a medical doctor to make sure that other, more life-threatening causes aren't the source of your leg pain.

Sources of Potassium

If your doctor suggests adding more potassium to your diet, a plethora of foods will serve this purpose. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of potassium. Bananas, baked potatoes, prunes, spinach and sunflower seeds are just a few of the potassium-rich options available. Seafoods such as clams, cod, rockfish, halibut and tuna are also good sources of potassium.

Potassium Supplements

Potassium supplements have a number of possible adverse reactions, so obtaining potassium through dietary sources rather than supplements is best, unless you are specifically instructed to do otherwise by your doctor. In high dosages, supplemental potassium can cause hyperkalemia, a disorder that can result in kidney failure and death. Adverse effects have not been observed as a result of eating potassium-rich foods. The average healthy adult should strive to obtain 4.7 grams of potassium daily through dietary sources.

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