Leg cramps, muscle spasms, or whatever you prefer to call them, Charlie Horses are a pain and fortunately, they are easy to get rid of.
I was prompted to write on this topic today because of a conversation I had with a patient yesterday. In passing he mentioned to me that he takes anti-inflammatory meds every night at bedtime per his medical doctor’s instructions to treat his regularly occurring leg cramps. As you might expect, we had a little chat.
Regularly occurring muscle spasms are not normal. They’re an indicator that the muscles aren’t getting what they need. I asked my patient to talk this through with me. We discussed that giving the body what it requires is preferable to forcing a change or masking a symptom by using medicines like pain killers or anti-inflammatories. Muscle function is vital for our survival. We have different types of muscles that are responsible for different actions. Skeletal muscles are for movement so we can take a step, grasp things with our hands, and have all the motion humans have potential for. Cardiac muscle keeps our heart pumping blood throughout our bodies, and smooth muscle, found in organs other than the heart is what allows our lungs to expand and contract as well as churning the food in our stomachs for instance.
When we have a symptom such as frequent or regularly occurring leg cramps, we must accept that the muscles throughout the whole body are probably lacking something and it’s not likely the problem exists only in one leg muscle. It’s dangerous to cover up a fairly insignificant symptom like Charlie horses and ignore that your heart may be suffering at the same time even though you can’t tell.
All muscle types have common requirements and perhaps the two biggest requirements are water and mineral balance. Both dehydration and a lack of key minerals will prevent muscles from doing the work they must do and from being able to rest at key times as well. The first course of action for people experiencing leg cramps is to insure their water intake is sufficient. If that resolves the problem, it may be enough but I would suggest checking mineral levels as well. For many years we’ve heard about the importance of calcium, potassium, and more recently magnesium in our health. These three minerals are critical for muscle function and countless other aspects of health. More than likely, taking a supplement of those minerals and drinking enough water will resolve muscle cramps. However, taking a well rounded mineral supplement along with a high quality multi vitamin is probably the best approach. Remember, balance is really the key and all minerals play important roles in keeping us well. The multi vitamin I recommend most often is Alpha Base by Orthomolecular Nutrition. It is a complete multi vitamin/mineral formula.
It’s always best to come in for an assessment to identify what your specific needs are and if these steps don’t resolve the situation quickly, a closer look is definitely indicated.
Dr. Harris Meyer
Body Focus Health Center
Chiropractic and Nutrition