Reasons for Leg Cramps – Natural Remedies That Work

The reasons for leg cramps are sought by millions of people around the world who suffer from very painful cramps or spasms in the thigh, calf and foot.

What are the reasons for leg cramps at night or even during the night while you are asleep? but can also occur during the day because of exercise. Seniors are no exception. Are you one of these sufferers?

There are at least 10 reasons for leg cramps. These can be split into two categories – general causes, and causes due to medical conditions.

Note that leg cramps caused by medical conditions cannot be treated by simple remedies. Diagnosis and treatment of these conditions can only be made by a doctor.

If you fall into this category, you should immediately book an appointment to speak to your healthcare provider.

This article evaluates the common reasons for leg cramps, highlights some medical causes, some natural ways of treating leg cramps, and discusses some simple exercises to relieve the excrutiating pain experienced – when ithey do happen.

Over exertion of the muscles can cause leg cramps - Reasons for Leg Cramps
Over-exertion of the muscles can cause leg cramps

Reasons For Leg Cramps – General Causes

VITAMIN E

Over Exertion

Too much exercise especially when your muscles are not used to it can cause cramping and spasms in the legs. This is one of the commonest reasons for leg cramps and pain.

This frequently occurs for example if you live a sedentary lifestyle and then go for a long walk, run or other activity.

It is why you are always told to start any exercise regimen slowly, and gradually build up the intensity. Cramping and spasms in the legs caused by over exertion can be particularly painful.

Only those who experience it like myself, can truly understand what it feels like!

Over exertion can be one of the reasons for leg cramps in elderly people because many of them typically maintain a sedentary lifestyle, spending long hours on the couch. Obviously, getting up and moving around more will help.

NATURAL REMEDY: Consume sunflower seeds, almonds or wheat germ oil to speed up recovery after over exercising the muscles. The vitamin E they contain is released to help repair plasma membranes in the muscle cells.

Low Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an essential vitamin which increases oxygen to the muscles and prevents cramping. If its levels are low in the body, you may experience muscle tenderness, cramps and even heart pain (angina).

This vitamin can prevent angina by strengthening the heart muscles.

NATURAL REMEDY: Consume sunflower seeds, avocado, lettuce, asparagus, and almonds to get more vitamin E into the body. This will help to increase the oxygen capacity in the muscle cells. Oxygen deprivation in muscle cells is a well known cause of cramping.

REASONS FOR LEG CRAMPS – DEFICIENCY IN ELECTROLYTES

Sunflower Seeds - Reasons for Leg Cramps
Pumpkin seeds help boost intake of Potassium and Magnesium

The most common cause of muscle cramps and spasms in the legs is a deficiency in minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride).

Muscle cells require lots of potassium, magnesium and calcium to function properly.

NATURAL REMEDY: Consume pumpkin seeds, avocados, kale, Swiss chard and almonds to help boost the intake of potassium and magnesium.

Sea kelp is one of the highest sources of calcium along with small-boned fish like anchovies or sardines and eating them will boost your calcium levels.

LACK OF SALT

Salt is essential for the human body and is required for proper muscle function. Salt’s chemical name is sodium chloride derived from a combination of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl).

Sodium is the electrolyte used to electrically charge muscle cells.

Consequently, if you have low salt levels, you may experience twitching in the muscles or cramping. Salt levels may be one of the reasons for leg cramps at night.

REMEDY: Avoid the use of commercial grade salts as they are loaded with harmful fillers like aluminum, maltodextrin, and anti-clumping agents. Use of Pink Himalayan salt or ancient seabed salts is recommended.

REASONS FOR LEG CRAMPSMEDICATIONS

Many medications have some serious side effects which can trigger leg cramps if they deplete or block minerals from entering body cells. This is a possible source of cramps in the elderly.

Some of the most common medicines which cause leg cramps are statins for cholesterol and osteoporosis, and anti-acid medications.

Others include anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, calcium channel blockers, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, proton pump inhibitors, and fake estrogen tablets.

Antibiotics used for treating infections can also cause problems with the muscles and tendons. These antibiotics are sometimes able to alter the pH of the colon to block some nutrient uptake.

NATURAL REMEDY: Always check on the side effect of any medication before use and discuss with your doctor. If after doing so, you begin to observe cramping and spasms, return to your doctor for a re-evaluation.

Sometimes a combination of 2 or more medications taken together for different ailments can interact and cause problems.

LOW STOMACH ACID

Indigestion, heartburn, bloating or acid reflux are conditions caused by low stomach acid. This is very common as we age because the stomach starts to become very alkaline (high pH).

To effectively absorb minerals like magnesium and potassium you require a stomach with strong acidity (low pH).

Reasons for Leg Cramps - Obese Man Measuring Round His Abdomen With Measuring Tape
Insulin Resistance Could be Due to a Bulging Belly

REMEDY: Take 1-2 apple cider vinegar capsules before a meal to create strong acidity in the stomach to allow better absorption of electrolyte minerals.

Eating an apple before a meal would also produce a similar effect, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Reasons For Leg Cramps – Some Causes Due to Medical Conditions

INSULIN RESISTANCE

People with bulging belly fat may have insulin resistance. They usually have a problem absorbing potassium, magnesium and other nutrients into the muscle cells especially if diabetic resulting in muscle spasms.

These muscles weaken over time because of their inability to absorb enough protein and amino acids.

REMEDY: Consult your physician if you suspect this condition and request a special test to detect this. Also, follow a low-carb diet such as keto or perform intermittent fasting to heal insulin resistance.

DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS (DVT)

This is a blood clot that causes cramping especially in one leg. The pain may be worse when bending the foot upward towards the knees.

REMEDY: Consult your doctor

REASONS FOR LEG CRAMPSBLOCKED ARTERIES

In rare cases, a blockage in the arteries may block blood flow to the muscles and cause cramps in the leg. This usually occurs in diabetics, ex or current smokers and those who have had high blood pressure for a long time.

REMEDY: Consult your doctor

CANCER

This diagnosis can only be made by a doctor. Cancer anywhere in the body causes imbalances of electrolytes and minerals (especially potassium and magnesium) triggering leg cramps.

Simple Exercises

Stretch the cramped muscle and gently massage it to help it relax. If you’re unable to stand, sit on the floor or in a chair with your affected leg extended. Try to bend the knee if you have a calf cramp

Reasons for Leg Cramp - LENORA Elevating Leg Rest Pillow
Night -time Relief – Leg Elevation Pillow – LENORA

1.Try to pull the top of the foot on the affected side towards the head while the leg remains in a straightened position.

This technique is also helpful to ease a back thigh (hamstring) cramp.

2. If the cramp is in the front thigh (quadriceps), use a chair to steady yourself and then try to pull the foot on the affected side up towards the buttock area (Mayo Clinic 2021).

3. Perform a simple calf stretch each night before lying down to sleep.

4. Tiptoe over a step and stretch the foot down. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat four times on each leg.

4. Use a warm towel or heating pad  or  ice  to  massage the cramped muscle with ice may relieve pain.

These simple exercises are very effective in preventing leg cramps during the night as the stretch stimulates blood and oxygen flow into the muscles.

In addition, leg elevation pillows are beneficial as thy help maintain good blood circulation in the legs.

Refer to a previous article ( Leg Cramps in Seniors. The Best Leg Pillows for Night Relief) on this site for detailed review of different types of leg elevation pillows and what you need to consider when making a choice

A Vegan Supplement To Check

The use of supplements for preventative and relief – provision for leg cramps bring up widely differing views on their success rates for many people as no two people are alike.

One vegan supplement – Magnesium Bisglycinate TRAACS 100% Chelate 200mg 120 Capsules Vegan Magnesium Supplement stands out however, because of its very high rating and popularity in the marketplace as providing moderate relief for leg cramps.

Conclusion – Reasons for Leg Cramps

Some reasons for leg cramps can be more easily identified than the medically related ones. Although very uncomfortable, there are some simple natural remedies and exercises that make leg cramps and spasms more manageable. Supplements may be used – if preferred.

Causes due to medical conditions can only be diagnosed and treated by a doctor.

If you liked this article, please leave a comment .

Related articles

FAQ

What causes frequent leg cramps?

Frequent leg cramps, also known as muscle cramps or charley horses, can have various causes. While occasional leg cramps are common and often harmless, frequent or severe cramps may indicate an underlying issue. Some common causes of frequent leg cramps include dehydration, mineral imbalances, overexertion or muscle fatigue, poor circulation, medications, nerve compression, underlying medical conditions, tight or unsupportive footwear choices, aging and pregnancy.

What deficiency causes leg cramps?

Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Sodium, and Vitamin D deficiencies can contribute to leg cramps, they are not always the sole cause. Other factors, such as dehydration, overuse of muscles, or underlying medical conditions, can also play a role in the development of leg cramps.

How do I stop my legs from cramping?

Preventing and stopping leg cramps can be done through a combination of lifestyle changes and immediate actions when a cramp occurs. Strategies that help stop leg cramps and reduce their frequency: include stretching, massages, using hot compress or cold pack, staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, using supplements, wearing proper footwear, avoiding over-exertion, medication management, addressing underlying conditions, and the use of compression socks.

What do leg cramps at night mean?

Leg cramps that occur at night are also referred to as “nighttime leg cramps” or “nocturnal leg cramps,” can be quite common and have several potential causes. While they are usually harmless, they can be disruptive and uncomfortable. Frequent or severe cramps may indicate an underlying issue and a healthcare professional must be consulted.

How can you treat frequent leg cramps?

You need to identify the underlying cause to be able to treat frequent leg cramps. Maintaining proper hydration, consuming a balanced diet with sufficient minerals, regular stretching and warm-up exercises, and wearing appropriate footwear can help prevent cramps. If cramps persist or are severe, immediately consult a healthcare professional to rule out underlying medical conditions and discuss potential treatments. They may recommend dietary changes, supplements, physical therapy, or other appropriate measures based on the cause of the cramps.

References

Mayo Clinic (2021) Muscle cramp. Diagnosis and Treatment https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350825

Mediline Plus (2019) Muscle Cramps www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003193.htm

24 thoughts on “Reasons for Leg Cramps – Natural Remedies That Work”

  1. Hello Ceci,

    The body is an amazing system, having no idea that lack of Vitamin E or even lack of salt would have such a knock on effect when it comes to cramps.
    As a sufferer of leg cramps and restless leg I have often assumed it’s due to poor warm up and cool down stretching.

    I am hugely impressed with the research that went into this article and was found purely by accident. Now I have found Metamorphosis Hub I shall be a frequent visitor.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge

    Cordelia

    Reply
    • Delighted that you found us Cordelia! Thank you also for your kind comment. Research is so important to me as i really like to understand these topics and how they apply to me. Glad that you found value in the article!

      Please subscribe to our newsletter so that you receive notifications and additional news articles – and never have to miss out!

      Ceci

      Reply
  2. Wow
    Now this article was useful. As an athlete I have had a lot of cramps when I was dancing and I used to wonder what it is mainly caused by. I have heard about the salt and thus increased often however it continued to happen (the cramps) the other aspect that I learnt is that it is not just about salt it could also be ELECTROLYTES which I had no idea about.

    Reply
    • Thabo, I am delighted that the article provided you with value and taught you something new! As an athlete you should now focus on how to avoid these cramps and spasms.

      Ceci

      Reply
  3. Ceci,

    This information is great. I actually have a fiend that has muscle spams in her legs, and she can’t ever sleep because of it. Her doc diagnosed her with restless leg syndrome, and I’ve seen her struggle with this for years. While she does get meds for this, I bet the natural remedies will help as well. I feel bad for her, since she’s gone so far as had some compression therapies out of state for her legs.

    I’ll have to share this with her, so thank you for posting this!

    Katrina

    Reply
    • Hi Katrina,
      So sorry to hear about your friend’s condition. Please share with her. I incorporate several of these natural cremedies into my diet and I can confidently say that my bouts of leg cramps have stopped.

      Ceci

      Reply
  4. Hi Ceci,

    Thanks for showing us the reasons people can leg cramps. I must say it’s very comprehensive and educational. I am glad that you also provide natural remedies & exercises to reduce cramps or relieve the pain instead of medications. I am also a huge fan of natural remedies, so your article caught my eye while I scroll down reading.

    I don’t have leg cramps easily because I stretch my body often during the day and before bed. Besides, I also use three leg-alignment belts while I sleep, so it helps more or less.

    Cheers,
    Matt

    Reply
    • Hello Matt,
      Thanks for the read. I am a strong proponent of natural remedies first. Sometimes it may be necessary to move up to more formal medication if this is prescribed by the doctor.

      Ceci

      Reply
        • Hi Dianne, Thanks for visiting the website and reading this article. I hope one of these remedies may work for you. I found many of them helpful. There are several other articles on leg cramps on this site.

          Do your cramps mainly occur during the day or do they occur at night? Check out this article – https://metamorphosishub.com/causes-of-leg-cramps-at-night-how-to-stop-them/ Please let me know either way. I’m sure other members of the community would love to know!

          However, if you find that these pesky cramps are not going away, I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider just to ensure that there are no underlying medical conditions causing them.

          Ceci

          Reply
  5. Hi Ceci,
    This is great information. I often get tight calves and sometimes cramps. I had known about magnesium and eating almonds could help but you have provided a LOT more solutions and causes to be aware of. Have to love those sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
    Good tips too on stretching and recovering the muscle when we get a cramp. I had just been doing the traditional calf stretches but you have suggested a few more good things to do.
    Thank you, John

    Reply
  6. Hi Ceci, thanks for this great reminder on cramps and how to deal with them. I am active sportsman(used to do professionally soccer) so I come in contact with cramps time-to-time. I can say that the proper stretching is here the key (at least in my case). As older I get, as more important it is. Nowadays, I do stretching even for 20-30 minutes and I see huge difference. Anyway, it is very interesting to see, that even such a small detail like low vitamin E can cause it. Great post, please keep up this great work. Cheers

    Reply
    • Hi Julius,
      You are right that stretches do help as long as you don’t overdo them and end up getting sore. Keeping a healthy and active lifestyle is always recommended.

      Ceci

      Reply
  7. Hi Ceci,

    Thank you for a useful article.

    I occasionally get leg cramps and had been told that it was probably a lack of salt and that I should eat a bag of crisps!

    I hadn’t realised that there were so many other possible causes.

    It is so useful to see a bigger picture.

    All the best,

    Julia

    Reply
  8. Lots of very useful tips in this article and so fully explained. l will do as many of the said suggestions as I can. Thank you for the well presented article.

    Reply
    • Hi Maria,
      I am so delighted that you found value in the article! I also hope that in the near future you might share your results on this platform. Do stop by frequently for more value giving articles – or better still, subscribe to our newsletter and be one of the first to be notified as new articles are posted.
      Regards,
      Ceci

      Reply
  9. Hello, what a great site. i am 84 and have started to suffer leg cramps at night. i rub the effected muscle and this helps. to strengthen my legs i do about 200 squats a week.
    I will now start taking Vitamin “E”, Almonds and sunflower seeds from today, Thursday 17 November 2022.
    Thanks again. Regards Roy Chinery.

    Reply
    • Hi Roy,

      Delighted that you love the site and that you found value in this article!
      Leg cramps at night are really awful!. I suffered from them myself a while back – which is what prompted this research. Understanding the causes and preventive things to do truly changed the situation and they are now history! Consider signing up for our Insiders Weekly so that you are one of the first to know of new articles.
      Regards,
      Ceci

      Reply
  10. Just found you today as I researched this subject on the Mayo Clinic site. I am suffering increasingly from feet spasms, especially during the night but also during the day while doing tasks or being driven and can’t press them out easily. They have now spread to both hands and it is happening more than once on both feet and hands every day. I’ve been given medications that may be worsening the condition and appreciate the information. My background is as a dancer and fitness specialist and more, so I know about the overuse and stretching issues etc. Applying a heat liniment seems to help but it is very concerning that it is getting worse in both my hands and feet now. Don’t know if I will be able to find a response unless you email me directly. Thank you for your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Margo,
      Delighted that you found the site! I most certainly empathize with you, because I can appreciate the level of pain these pesky leg cramps cause having been a sufferer before myself. I hope you are aware that I am not a physician so I cannot provide information in that capacity, but I do have a strong academic background blended with my own personal experience I can share.

      It is worrisome that the spasms seem to be spreading to your hands as well. Were you given the meds you are taking by a doctor? If so, have you gone back to explain the worsening condition? My first recommendation is that you see a doctor as soon as you can – if you have not seen one yet. You may benefit from consulting another doctor altogether if the doctor you have previously seen is the one that gave you the meds which appear to be worsening the condition. There are certain medical conditions that can cause leg cramps and muscle spasms, so you should have the doctor check this angle. Here is Metamorphosis Hub article about medical conditions that may cause cramps:
      https://metamorphosishub.com/leg-cramp-causes-6-medical-conditions-that-are-hidden-culprits/

      Now back to some tips that you may find helpful. Keep in mind that no two people are alike and what works for me may not work for you. I was truly amazed to receive so many responses from fellow sufferers when I wrote a bunch of articles on leg cramps. I never knew that there were so many people dealing with the problem. Many even wrote to share the remedies that worked for them.

      I found that painstakingly conducting trial and error with various remedies (a slow process) and closely watching for triggers helped me and another friend tremendously. I recommend that you hydrate and drink loads and loads of water throughout the day. Don’t wait till evening time to do this faithfully as it will increase your frequency to the bathroom and keep you up for most of the night! I also found that caffeine seemed to be my trigger. I cut back to just one cup a day and in conjunction with drinking copious amounts of water, I experienced great relief. No more cramping while driving, or during the night and I rarely experience them anymore. Once again, this is what worked for me.

      Applying hot or cold compress to the affected areas seem to offer relief and I note that you are already doing so.

      I hope all this helps. Do share your results with the community as someone could benefit from your experience.
      Good luck,

      Ceci

      Reply
  11. I have been having horrible leg and feet cramps. Have tried everything. They are happening on my ankles, the side of my legs. I’m taking magnesium supplement and lotion. Stretching every morning and night, using a foot massager, wearing compression leg sleeves. Nothing seems to work. I’m 87 and have been practicing yoga for most of my life and have always lived a healthy lifestyle. My doctor has checked my medications and can’t find a reason there. I now have an appointment to see a neurologist

    Reply

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