If you’ve ever been suddenly jolted out of bed due to foot cramps, you know how agonizing the experience can be. It might only last a few seconds in most cases, but it can seem like hours before a cramp subsides. If you suffer from this problem on a regular basis, you’re probably searching high and low for a permanent solution.
You might have heard that magnesium supplements could be the answer to your problem. But is that actually the case? Is a magnesium deficiency to blame for your foot cramps?
A Sketchy Connection, at Best
There really isn’t a definitive answer one way or the other as to whether or not magnesium can help relieve foot cramps. Researchers haven’t conducted a lot of studies on the subject. But the research that has been done doesn’t paint an encouraging picture.
For example, one study found that magnesium didn’t work any better than a placebo in study participants suffering from nighttime leg cramps. It’s true that the study didn’t involve people suffering from foot cramps. But again, there haven’t been a lot of studies done specifically on cramping that involves the foot.
In the leg cramp study, researchers split 94 adults into two groups. One group received magnesium oxide capsules nightly for one month. The other received a placebo. Both groups reported fewer cramping episodes during the study period. On average, participants taking the magnesium reported five episodes of leg cramps per week, compared to the eight that they normally suffered. Researchers stated that the reduction of episodes was “nonsignificant.” They also found that both the magnesium and placebo groups saw an equal reduction in cramping.1
Why Magnesium is Still Important
There’s not a lot of evidence that supports the use of magnesium to reduce cramping. But that doesn’t mean the mineral isn’t extremely important for your health. If you have a magnesium deficiency, you could actually be at risk for several different problems.
Here are some of the reasons why magnesium is important:
Magnesium plays an essential role in cardiovascular health. It has been linked to a lower risk of sudden cardiac death as well as helping ensure a normal heart rhythm. In fact, doctors will sometimes administer magnesium through an IV to reduce the risk of irregular heartbeat. Magnesium has also been found to help improve survival rates in people suffering from congestive heart failure.2
Foods that are rich in magnesium, such as fruits and vegetables, may help lower your blood pressure. In one study, researchers found that women with a higher magnesium intake had a reduced risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.3
There are also studies that suggest magnesium could help not only reduce the duration of a migraine headache, but also the amount of medication needed to find relief.4
So, What Can I Do About My Foot Cramps?
It’s not entirely clear why foot cramps occur. However, researchers believe the main cause is over-activity of neurons, which control muscle contraction. While the exact cause remains a mystery, there are several contributing factors to this problem.
Here are some of the potential causes of foot cramps:
· Medicinal side effects – Some medications, including those given for pain or to help prevent osteoporosis, have been linked to an increased risk of muscle cramps.5
If you’re taking a medication and suffering from foot cramps, have a talk with your doctor. They might be able to switch you to another type of medicine that doesn’t have this troublesome side effect.
· Improper stretching before exercise – You already know that you should perform muscle stretches before you work out. But a lot of people don’t realize they should stretch their feet as well. This is actually a very effective way to help you avoid suffering from a painful cramp afterward.6
· Age – Older people tend to suffer from foot cramps more often because of wear and tear on their nerves and muscle tissue.7
· Shoes – The kinds of shoes you wear could also play a role in contributing to your foot cramps. If your footwear doesn’t fit properly, that could result in cramping.8
· Health conditions – Certain medical conditions can increase your risk of foot cramps. These include liver issues, as well as certain nerve disorders.
· Lack of sodium – If you tend to exercise and sweat excessively, you could be losing enough sodium to be at a high risk of cramping. Be sure you’re consuming enough salt in your diet. Sports drinks might also help you replenish the sodium you’re losing.10
The Bottom Line
It appears that magnesium might not be a magic solution for foot cramps. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need this critical mineral. A magnesium deficiency could be extremely serious.
If you do suffer from foot cramps on a regular basis, there are several steps you can take to try and alleviate the problem. But if those don’t work, have a talk with your doctor. They might be able to offer a permanent solution or refer you to a specialist who can provide you with the permanent relief you seek.