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"I am getting terrible charley horses, do you think I need electrolytes?"

December 14, 2017, 2:32 pm
Thank you so much for your question! As always, we are happy to help.

Lower limb muscle cramps can affect individuals for a number of reasons but mostly occur during exercise, at nighttime in older people, in pregnant women, in people with a neurological disease and during kidney dialysis.  All current and highly cited literature conclude that hypo hydration (3% wt loss) and electrolyte depletion, whether sodium, potassium, magnesium or calcium (nothing on Phosphorous or Chloride) were NOT found to contribute to muscle cramping. This misconception has circulated due to being previous invalidated theories. The most up to date theory considers altered neuromuscular control as a possible factor but more evidence is required.  However, there are some limited studies on non-drug related treatments that can be effective for reducing muscle cramps.
These include muscle stretching, physical exercise, avoidance of physical fatigue, massage, relaxation, heat therapy, weight loss, sensory nerve stimulation, ankle splints worn while sleeping, and changes to sleeping and sitting positions.  A note of warning,: Quinine (which has been prescribed to treat muscle cramps) is not considered a safe nor effective treatment method according to recent studies. It may cause serious or life-threatening side effects, including severe bleeding problems, kidney damage, irregular heartbeat, and severe allergic reactions.

If you have any other questions, feel free to reach out!

Dan Yohe, MS, RDN, LDN

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