Leg cramps are not usually a serious illness*, but they can be incredibly painful and debilitating until they subside. They may be caused by several things, so I've listed a few treatments to try. What works best for you will depend on the underlying cause, so you may have to experiment to find the most effective treatment and prevention strategy.
What Causes Leg Cramps?
Leg cramps at night are called recumbency cramps, and are caused by spasmlike muscle contractions. You might also experience leg cramps after exercising if you are dehydrated. In both cases leg cramps can be caused by electrolyte or mineral imbalance in the body.
Leg Cramp Treatments
If your leg cramps are brought on by exercise, you may be dehydrated. Try drinking more water, both throughout the day and during exercise. Be sure to warm up and stretch before exercise and warm down and stretch afterwards as well.
Food Therapy Treatments
If you get leg cramps frequently, especially nocturnal leg cramps it could be due to an electrolyte imbalance.
Low potassium levels can cause leg cramps. Apple cider vinegar is high in potassium and this tonic should help quickly if your leg cramps are caused by low potassium: Mix 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey in a glass of warm water and drink.
If the above tonic helps relieve your leg cramps, try to boost your potassium levels by eating more of these potassium-rich foods: apples, bananas, dried fruits, avocado, mushrooms, yogurt, kefir, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked potatoes and cantaloupe. Potassium works with sodium to control the fluid balance in your body, and they have to be in the right proportions to each other in order to work effectively. If you have a high sodium diet try cutting back on the sodium a bit, use only high-quality salt such as Himalayan Sea Salt, and at the same time eat more of the foods that are high in potassium. Also, make sure you are drinking enough water.
Boosting your intake of calcium and magnesium can also help alleviate leg cramps. There is one super-food that's incredibly high in both of these minerals, raw chocolate (also known as raw cacao). Here are some recipes using raw cacao. Eat more vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like broccoli and kale, almonds, and raw chocolate (raw cacao) all of which are high in both calcium and magnesium. One quick and easy way to get a lot of all these ingredients in your diet is to have a green smoothie daily. You can make it with almond milk as the base, add dark leafy greens, and raw cacao powder.
Other calcium-rich food sources include: salmon, sardines (with bones), green beans, turnip greens. Additional magnesium-rich foods include: raw chocolate (raw cacao, the #1 source of magnesium), nuts and pumpkin seeds, molasses, spinach, baked potatoes, bananas, wheat germ and seafood.
An important note about calcium: you want to avoid calcium supplements. David Wolfe has done a lot of research in this area, and calcium supplements are bad news. They are responsible for pretty much all age-related diseases. In a nutshell, they will kill you faster. They are promoted as being necessary to prevent osteoporosis. It's a myth, a marketing ploy. According to David Wolfe, there is absolutely no scientific research to support that. If that's not enough, just look at it logically. The USA consumes more dairy (also promoted as being high in calcium) than just about any other country, people are taking calcium supplements, they are being recommended by doctors, so why does the US still have such a high incidence of osteoporosis?
Physical Therapy Treatments
Acupressure or massage may help to ease the cramping once it's started. Sit and bend the knee of your cramped leg, bringing your leg up toward your chest. There is an acupressure point in your calf muscle on the back of your leg. It's about halfway between the back of your knee and your heel, at the bottom of your calf muscle bulge. Press and hold there for about a minute or until you feel the cramp release – remember to keep breathing while you do. You can also try gently massaging the back of your leg with long strokes upwards, from your heel to the back of your knee using the palm of your hand
*There are rare cases of leg cramps which are symptoms of more serious conditions, so if you have frequent leg cramps be sure to see your doctor about them.
Other Supplements For Muscle Cramps
I've more recently started using magnesium supplements and found it helps with muscle cramps and spasms. I developed plantar fasciitis a couple years ago and was getting terrible, painful cramps and spasms in the arches of my feet. I used a few techniques which helped, and I'll be writing an article about that, but I found magnesium supplements quickly made the spasms stop and helped a lot with the pain and cramping in my feet.
Here is the magnesium supplement I use, it's in powdered form and you mix it with water to make a drink: Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement. It comes in several nice organic flavors, sweetened with organic stevia. The stevia sweetens it nicely, it's not overpowering. It's non-GMO, gluten free, contains no yeast, dairy, egg, soy, wheat, sugar, fructose, starch, preservatives or artificial color or flavor. I use it with cold water in warm weather, and hot water in cold weather.