The Top 5 Vitamins & Supplements To Find Relief From Muscle Cramps + Spasms
If you've ever experienced the discomfort of muscle cramps and spasms, you know how much they can disrupt your daily life. But rather than just treating symptoms, it’s my job as a functional medicine expert to show you exactly what’s behind these uncomfortable cramps so you can rid yourself of them once-and-for-all. From the best vitamins for muscle cramps and spasms to my favorite lifestyle habits to start practicing, this is your complete guide to all things muscle health.
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What are muscle spasms?
Muscle spasms, or more commonly referred to as muscle cramps, are involuntary contractions of one or more muscles in the body. These contractions can be sudden and intense with some people also experiencing discomfort or pain. Muscle spasms can occur in various muscles, but most often occur in your legs, feet, hands, arms, neck, and back.
Symptoms of muscle spasms or cramps
It’s pretty obvious when muscle spasms are happening as they are a unique phenomenon that is hard to ignore. In fact, you may even find that when muscle spasms or cramps do happen, it can put a complete pause on what you are doing in a moment, or at the very least be extremely distracting. Here’s how to identify if your symptoms are related to muscle spasms or cramps:
- Involuntary muscle contraction
- Muscle hardening
- Visible twitching
- Limited range of motion
- Cramping sensation/discomfort
If you experience frequent or severe muscle spasms, or if they are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it's important to talk with your doctor who can do a proper evaluation. Not only will they be able to help you identify the root cause of your muscle spasms they can also rule out any other more serious conditions if you also have other ongoing symptoms.
What causes muscle spasms?
One of the most common causes of muscle spasms is muscle fatigue. If you are participating in intense physical activity without giving your muscles time to relax this can lead to built-up tension and cramps.
Since hydration is necessary to maintain proper electrolyte levels, dehydration can lead to imbalances in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, which are essential for muscle function.
3. Not stretching enough
Stretching is a vital part of your daily exercise routine, but something that often gets overlooked in the name of time. However, failing to stretch before or after any physical activity can increase your risk of muscle spasms, especially for activities that require repetitive muscle contractions.
Chronic stress can affect all aspects of your health, including increasing your likelihood of muscle spasms. In fact, you may find that your eye starts to twitch during periods of heightened stress. This is known as myokymia and is directly linked (1) to chronic stress with symptoms resolving themselves once your body returns to its normal state of rest.
5. Nerve problems
Injuries and inflammation are two things that can put pressure on your nerves that control muscle contractions and lead to muscle spasms.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, nearly 50% of all pregnant women (2) experience muscle spasms - particularly in the legs - as a result of hormonal changes and the increased strain on their muscles and nerves.
7. Underlying health problems
Certain medical conditions including muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and metabolic disorders like diabetes can contribute to muscle spasms. In the case of diabetes and other blood sugar problems, these conditions can result in poor circulation that deprives the muscles of oxygen and nutrients, increasing the likelihood of spasms.
Some medications like antibiotics, diuretics, can affect muscle function and electrolyte balance and in turn increase your risk for muscle spasms.
Best vitamins for muscle cramps and spasms
“What vitamins are good for muscle spasms?” and “What can I take to stop muscle spasms?” are two questions I get asked frequently by my patients and followers alike. Thankfully, there are many supplements that you can take to help alleviate your symptoms and overcome any deficiencies behind your muscle spasms.
Potassium is an electrolyte that helps regulate muscle and nerve function with low potassium levels being linked to muscle spasms. And while you might be tempted to reach for a banana to fulfill your potassium needs, if you are struggling with a deficiency it may not be enough. One banana only contains 420mg of your daily 4,700mg potassium requirement, (3) so I recommend adding in a daily supplement alongside eating more potassium-rich foods in order to overcome severe deficiencies.
Magnesium is one of my top recommendations if you are dealing with muscle spasms as it is responsible for proper neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction but close to 90% (4) of the population is deficient in this nutrient. However, not all magnesium supplements are created equally in terms of bioavailability. That’s why I formulated The Magnesium for my supplement line, The Collection, for maximum absorption.
Calcium is another mineral important for muscle function - particularly muscle contraction - making supplements a great tool to help overcome any deficiencies.
4. B Vitamins
B vitamins, particularly vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12, are important for nerve function with some studies showing (5) that B complex supplements- like my supplement The Methylator - are beneficial for relieving muscle spasms and cramps.
Short for Coenzyme Q10, CoQ10 is an antioxidant that plays a role in cellular energy production. While more research needs to be done, some studies (6) suggest that CoQ10 supplements may help reduce muscle cramps and improve muscle function in certain individuals.
How to prevent muscle spasms and cramps
Ultimately, preventing muscle spasms involves adopting a combination of lifestyle changes and healthy habits. Here are some strategies to help prevent muscle spasms:
1. Stretch before exercise
Make sure to incorporate regular stretching into your daily exercise routine to maintain flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Also, avoid overworking your muscles by giving yourself enough rest days between workouts and gradually warming up before diving right into your most strenuous physical activity.
2. Stay hydrated
Don’t skimp on drinking water throughout your day to avoid dehydration. If you are more physically active, consider adding in an electrolyte supplement like LMNT to your water to ensure you are replenishing the electrolytes you are losing through your sweat.
3. Get a massage
If you struggle with nerve problems or frequent muscle spasms, consider getting regular massages to help relieve built up muscle tension and reduce your risk of spasms.
4. Manage your stress levels
Since chronic stress can contribute to muscle tension and spasms, daily mindfulness practices like breathwork, meditation, or yoga can be beneficial for calming your mind and alleviating overall stress in your life.
Finding the right supplement plan for you
Ultimately, finding relief from muscle spasms goes beyond just supplementation and includes taking a whole-body approach. By taking a whole-body approach and looking at both supplements and lifestyle changes, you can start to heal from the inside-out.
If you are struggling with ongoing muscle spasms, it’s important to work with a qualified practitioner who can find the right plan of action for you. In my telehealth functional medicine clinic, we help you uncover the root cause behind your symptoms - whether it be an electrolyte imbalance or stress - in order to identify what healing tools you need to reclaim your health.
As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.
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- American Optometric Association "Myokymia (eyelid twitch or tic)" https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/myokymia?sso=y Accessed September 2023.
- American Pregnancy Association "Treating Muscle Cramps During Pregnancy" https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/treating-muscle-cramps-during-pregnancy/ Accessed September 2023.
- National Institutes of Health "Potassium" https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/ Accessed September 2023.
- Killilea, David W, and Bruce N Ames. “Magnesium deficiency accelerates cellular senescence in cultured human fibroblasts.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 105,15 (2008): 5768-73. doi:10.1073/pnas.0712401105
- Katzberg, Hans D et al. “Assessment: symptomatic treatment for muscle cramps (an evidence-based review): report of the therapeutics and technology assessment subcommittee of the American academy of neurology.” Neurology vol. 74,8 (2010): 691-6. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181d0ccca
- Taylor, Beth A. “Does Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation Mitigate Statin-Associated Muscle Symptoms? Pharmacological and Methodological Considerations.” American journal of cardiovascular drugs : drugs, devices, and other interventions vol. 18,2 (2018): 75-82. doi:10.1007/s40256-017-0251-2
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.
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