Muscle cramps are rather common.
Approximately 60 percent of adults experience these oftentimes painful involuntary contractions, according to the Medical University of South Carolina. Additionally, the rate of cramping tends to increase with age.
Medline adds that the muscles that cramp the most are typically located in the thighs and feet, hands and arms, abdomen, and along the ribcage. The majority of the time these cramps are brought on by overuse.
However, nerve compression, dehydration, low electrolyte levels, reduced blood supply to the muscle, pregnancy, certain medications, and dialysis can all cause muscles to tense as well.
Though muscle cramps are typically harmless and usually go away on their own, Medline indicates that stretching, massage, heat, and increasing fluids can sometimes help. So too can supplements. Here are three to consider based on scientific research.
1.Vitamin B complex
The human body needs a variety of B vitamins for maximum cellular health, proper brain and nerve function, enhanced cardiovascular wellbeing, and normal hormone production according to Healthline. B vitamins also aid in increasing energy levels, improving eyesight, and healthier digestion.
vitamin B complex — a supplement containing B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3
(niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid),
and B12 (cobalamin) — can help with all of these functions. But research has
also found that it can potentially help with muscle cramps.
In a 2010 assessment published in the journal Neurology, researchers reviewed 24 trials involving muscle cramp treatments. They noted that, in at least one Class II study — which the Evidence-Based Spine-Care Journal explains means that the study has a moderately low risk of bias — vitamin B complex was found to help treat these cramps.
Research published in BMC Family Practice reports that approximately one in three adults
over the age of 50 have nocturnal leg cramps lasting anywhere from a few
seconds to 10 minutes in length. These nighttime leg cramps often cause intense
pain, typically in the calf or foot, resulting in sleep issues and distress as
Some studies have found that magnesium can potentially ease these types of cramps. One such study was published in Medical Science Monitor. At some points during the study, participants were given 300 mg of magnesium for their nocturnal cramps; other times they received a control, keeping a diary to note their cramp durations and severities along the way.
weeks it was determined that, after receiving actual magnesium, 78 percent of
the study subjects reported an improvement in cramping. This compares to just 54
percent reporting some level of improvement after taking a placebo.
Research has also connected oral magnesium
with the relief of leg cramps occurring during pregnancy. Healthline adds that magnesium has other
benefits for expecting mothers as well, such as potentially reducing fetal
growth restriction and preterm birth.
Medical News Today explains that zinc benefits the body
in several ways. This includes supporting healthy immune system function,
improving learning and memory, maximizing wound healing processes, decreasing
age-related health conditions, and improving fertility. Research has also found
that this nutrient can possibly help ease specific types of muscle cramps.
instance, a 2000 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition
involved 12 cirrhotic patients who experienced muscle cramps at least three
times per week, typically in their calves, feet, and hands. After receiving 220
mg BID of zinc sulfate for 12 weeks, 10 of the 12 patients reported improvement
with regard to their muscle cramps. Seven of these indicated that their cramps
went away completely.
also been found beneficial if the cramping is menstruation-related. An article in Medical Hypotheses
states that up to three 30 mg doses of zinc taken daily for one to four days
before menses can help prevent menstrual cramping. However, it is unclear if
this response is due to this nutrient’s impact on prostaglandins or if it is
because it acts an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory for the uterus.
Safe supplement use
taking any of these supplements in an attempt to ease muscle cramps, the National Center for Complementary and
Integrative Health (NCCIH)
warns that some dietary supplements can interact with prescription medication.
They can also increase risk of complications regarding certain medical
supplements contain ingredients that aren’t listed on the label according to
the NCCIH, while others make illegal claims, violating governmental standards
and putting consumers at risk of developing medical issues due to supplement
such as these, the NCCIH recommends that individuals speak with their healthcare
providers prior to taking supplements before surgery. It also suggests that if
supplements are taken, that they be taken as instructed on the product label.
because many supplements have not been adequately tested for pregnant women,
nursing mothers, and children, care should be taken when using them in these