Muscle cramps occur when skeletal muscles involuntarily and forcibly contract and can cause considerable pain or discomfort.  Nocturnal leg cramps can occur in the calves, soles of the feet or other muscles in the body during the night and obviously disrupt sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a separate neurological disorder characterised by unpleasant sensations in the legs such as burning, creeping or tugging and an uncontrollable urge to move the legs when at rest. It is commonly seen alongside SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Dysbiosis, Fibromyalgia or with certain medications.

With increased exercise muscle cramps can become more frequent as they are often caused by an imbalance in electrolytes, particularly low levels of magnesium, potassium and/or calcium. Inadequate oxygenation (not breathing effectively during exercise) can contribute, as can anaemia (low iron levels), and poor muscle tone.

Woman rubbing cream into her sore leg

10 tips to avoid cramping

  1. Hydrate by drinking enough water before, during and after exercising and if perspiring
  2. Warm up prior to exercise and cool down thoroughly when you play sport
  3. Stretch after exercise and incorporate regular stretching into your fitness routine
  4. Supplement with a high quality magnesium / electrolyte formula
  5. Be guided with the correct technique, especially if running is part of your exercise program
  6. Avoid wearing high heel shoes for lengthy periods
  7. Regular massage can help reduce underlying muscle tension
  8. Make sure your diet is nutritionally adequate, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables, eliminate caffeine, smoking and alcohol
  9. If you do have a cramp, gently and gradually stretch and massage the affected muscle
  10. Acute dosing of magnesium tissue salts (Mag phos) can stop cramps quickly if they occur

 

Supplementation

Magnesium and Electrolyte Formulas such as Endura can be taken – 1-2 serves with 350ml of water 30 mins before and 1 serve each hour of exercise up to four times a day with increased physical demand

Magnesium supplements such as Fibroplex can be taken daily to treat deficiencies – 300mg 1 – 2 times daily, one dose given 30 mins prior to bed.

Restless Leg Syndrome requires more in-depth assessment and treatment, but a diet rich in magnesium, B12, folate, Vitamin E, iron and calcium is important, as is identifying food intolerances and eliminating sugar and yeast. Ensure some form of exercise for several minutes such as walking, stretching or yoga etc. at bedtime.

For more advice or for a thorough assessment to determine the cause of your muscle cramps or restless legs, book an appointment with our Naturopath,  Sandra Tenge by calling 9596 9930.

Sandra Tenge, Naturopath