A woman has calf cramps - the cause may be a magnesium deficiency. A woman has calf cramps - the cause may be a magnesium deficiency.

Help! That hurts! What can I do to stop leg cramps?

Anyone who’s ever had cramp knows how painful it is. And once you’ve got it you just want it to disappear as quickly as possible. Read here about what you can do yourself if you get leg cramps, when it’s better to leave treatment to the doctor, and why magnesium helps combat cramps.

Leg cramp: treatment depends on the cause

If leg cramps occur occasionally it may be unpleasant but there is normally no cause for concern. Painful muscle contractions may, for example, be due to overstraining, though the precise cause often remains unclear. Since leg cramps don’t last long – they’re gone in a few seconds or perhaps minutes – treatment is not necessary in most cases. But you should still check you are taking enough magnesium. That’s because a magnesium deficiency can make it harder for muscles to relax, making cramp more likely. That’s particularly likely to be the case where the symptoms occur frequently and night-time cramps regularly interrupt your restful sleep.

If you frequently experience leg cramps even though you have an adequate supply of magnesium this may also be an indication of disease, for example one affecting your nerves or muscles. If this is the case you should consult a doctor to have this cleared up. Treatment will depend on the specific cause.

Combating cramps with magnesium: application and dosage

If the cramps are due to magnesium deficiency, the answer to the question “What can I do to stop leg cramps” is as follows: If your body’s reserves of magnesium are low, treatment with magnesium is recommended to top these up and restore the electrolyte balance, which is important for maintaining the right ratio between muscle contraction and relaxation.

What’s more, Magnesium, unlike other active ingredients, can be used to treat the causes of leg cramps*.

That’s because drugs that only alleviate the symptoms leave the actual root cause of the problem – magnesium deficiency – untreated. Active ingredients such as quinine sulphate also frequently have greater potential for side effects, whilst magnesium is well known for being well tolerated/ So taking magnesium is also generally suitable when leg cramps occur during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As always during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you should generally consult your doctor before going ahead. Useful to know: The 350 to 400 mg strength magnesium products are particular suitable at the start of treatment. You can switch to a lower-strength product as the treatment progresses. But generally, you need to keep taking magnesium over a prolonged period (at least four to six weeks) to top up your magnesium levels.

* due to magnesium deficiency

What can you do in cases of acute leg cramp?

Suddenly, and with no prior warning, the pain shoots through your body: What can you do to alleviate muscle and leg cramps as quickly as possible? Here are a few tips on treating leg cramp:

  • Stretch the affected muscle. If the leg cramps are severe, it’s best to get into a sitting position first. Grasp your toes and draw them towards your body. At the same time, slowly stretch out the affected leg.
  • Stand up and walk around a bit. We’re the first to admit that following this advice may be rather painful at first. But the movement loosens up the muscle so the tension resolves itself more quickly.
  • Massage the cramped area with your hands. This stimulates the circulation.
  • Warm up the muscle. You can do this, for example, by placing a wheaty bag on it, or taking a relaxing bath. The heat does you good and alleviates the symptoms.

Sports in particular can often cause muscle tension as a result of overstrain or an electrolytic imbalance (caused, for example by heavy sweating). What helps to combat leg cramps? The best thing to do is to remove any pressure from the relevant part of the body and then stretch it carefully. As a precaution, sportsmen and women should always ensure they have enough to drink and warm up thoroughly in advance. In some cases, people who do lots of training may also have a higher magnesium requirement, so ensuring an adequate supply of the mineral is also important for avoiding leg cramps.