A question that I get frequently is, “Dr. Brandon, why do I get so many muscle cramps?” Unfortunately, muscle cramps are involuntary muscle contractions that you don't have much control over while they are happening. Muscle cramps can be very painful and most of the time the discomfort can be felt for days following the episode. The most common causes of muscle cramping include poor nerve function/control, dehydration, low electrolyte levels (sodium, potassium, magnesium), muscle fatigue, stress, restricted blood supply, and long periods of inactivity. The good news is that there are things you can do to help prevent or lessen the frequency of cramps happening.
So let's talk through some remedies for the above listed causes of muscle cramps. If the nerve that is controlling the muscle is dysfunctional (not working properly) the muscle can experience abnormal movement. Chiropractic care and regular adjustments can help restore proper muscle and nerve function. Another common cause of muscle cramps is dehydration. Most of us do not drink enough water throughout the day which can be detrimental to our body’s. Approximately 60-70% of the body is water, so if we are not properly hydrated our body’s cannot function in a healthy way. The standard recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water each day. For example, someone who weighs 120 lbs should drink at least 60 ounces of water a day. Without the proper amount of water, the muscle tissue will start to shrink and cause constriction and cramping to occur.
Low levels of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium) can be another big reason for cramps. Electrolytes are specialized minerals that are vital to the human body. Our body uses electrolytes for proper nerve impulse regulation, the contraction process of muscle tissue, and fluid level balancing and absorption in the body. If we have low electrolyte levels we will see decreased performance in our bodies. If we are drinking enough water but still experiencing uncomfortable cramps, then it is likely that we aren't getting enough electrolytes. These essential minerals help our bodies absorb water. While electrolytes can be consumed in everyday life through diet, you can also supplement these easily to ensure your body has adequate levels available. My favorite electrolyte supplement is a brand called LMNT. They are small packets of powder that you can buy and dissolve into water to enjoy throughout the day. Another option is buying a magnesium spray that can be put directly on muscles to help during an active cramp.
Finally, for issues of muscle fatigue, stress, and inactivity we need to focus our attention on how often we use our muscles throughout the day which is very important. Our body requires at least 60 minutes of movement or exercise per day to keep the muscles healthy. When we vary from our target of 60 minutes per day, the body can start to have breakdowns causing muscle cramps which is one symptom of poor muscle health.