Muscle cramps are nothing but involuntary and sudden contractions of a single muscle or a group of muscles.1 Every one of us has experienced muscle cramps at one point or other in our lives. Usually muscle cramps are harmless and they tend to resolve on their own in a few seconds to a few minutes. When the cramps occur for longer durations and keep recurring, then it might be due to underlying medical condition. Muscle cramps most commonly occur in the muscles of the legs and feet. These cramps may occur at rest as well as during vigorous physical activity.
What Deficiency Causes Muscle Cramps?
Magnesium Deficiency: Magnesium is very important for normal functioning of the muscles.2 Magnesium deficiency is found to cause muscle cramps especially in the calf muscles. Magnesium is required in proper proportion for continuous contraction and relaxation of the muscles. When the levels of magnesium reduce, there is imbalance in the rhythmic activity of the muscles. Due to deficiency of magnesium there is increased permeability of the ion channels and this leads to muscle cramping.
Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle cramps in most of the patients. Vitamin D deficiency results due to inadequate exposure of skin to sunlight. Due to lack of vitamin D in the body, there is lack of calcium that leads to muscle spasms. The muscle cramps involve the muscles of feet, hands and face. When the muscle cramps are severe, seizures might also occur.
Vitamin B Deficiency: There are total eight subtypes of vitamin B and out of them, the vitamins whose deficiency can cause muscle cramps are- vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). The exact reason as to why these vitamin deficiencies cause muscle cramps is yet to be known.
Calcium Deficiency: Calcium is the mineral that is present in abundance in the muscular tissues. Calcium deficiency is also called as hypocalcaemia. When a person has low level of calcium in the body, the first symptom to appear is muscle pains and cramps.3
Potassium Deficiency: Potassium deficiency is also known as hypokalemia. It occurs when you suffer from inadequate intake of potassium in the diet, diarrhea, excessive vomiting that leads to excess loss of potassium from your body. Out of many symptoms of potassium deficiency, muscle cramps and muscle twitching is also seen. Other symptoms are weakness, constipation, fatigue and abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia).
Things you can to do when muscle cramps occur:
Stretching– When you get a muscle cramp, stretch that body part to relieve cramp faster.
Massaging– When a cramp occurs, you can massage the involved muscle or muscles gently to slowly relax the muscle and relieve cramping.
Warming The Involved Area– You can take a heating pad and place it over the cramping muscle and this might help to relax the muscle and decrease the pain.
Using Cold Pack– Using a cold pack on the involved muscle can help in relaxing the muscle but while using a cold pack you must not forget to keep a cloth between the ice pack and your skin.
Pain Killer Medications– If the pain is excessive and unbearable, you can try over the counter medications to relieve pain. Some of the examples of the medications that you can use are ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen or paracetamol.
Hydration– If you stay adequately hydrated, it will help you to avoid the muscle cramping. You must drink plenty of water before and after physical activities.
Move Around– When you get muscle cramps in your legs, you can move around to relax the muscles. By walking around the body send signals to the brain to relax and contract the muscles rhythmically and thus this will relieve the muscle cramping.
There are many causes of muscle cramping like dehydration, exposure to heat, and vigorous physical activity. But certain mineral and vitamin deficiencies can also cause excessive and unbearable muscle cramping. When there is deficiency of minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium, it results in muscle cramping and even severe pain in the muscles. Also when there is lack of vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin B, the person experiences muscle cramping.