How to Stop and Prevent Muscle Cramps
In college, I started getting terrible cramps in my legs and feet, and they continued for years. The foot cramps would last for over an hour, and they were excruciating. I even get them in the little muscles I didn't know I have on top of my feet. I tried all the solutions I heard of. I would put my cramping feet in hot water and stand on them. I drank tonic water (for the quinine). I massaged the cramping muscles. I started eating a banana a day for more potassium. I drank more water to stay hydrated.
While eating the bananas and drinking more water did help with the prevention some, they didn't stop them all together, and they did nothing for immediate relief during an episode. The cramping often came when I was sleeping or late in the evening, and would strike without warning. By the end I was in tears.
I finally heard about a solution that seemed too ridiculous to work, but I was getting desperate. This had been going on for more than 10 years. The next time I got a foot cramp, I put a bar of Ivory Soap on the floor and stood on it. Within a minute the cramping stopped! I couldn't believe it! Since the cramps often hit in the middle of the night and hunting down a bar of soap at 3 a.m. didn't sound awesome, I started putting a bar of the soap under my fitted sheet at the foot of the bed, right where my feet would be.
If cramping started in the night, I would move my foot over to where the soap was, the cramping stopped, and I went back to sleep. After a few months the bar of soap would stop working, and when I checked it under the sheet, it was considerably smaller, but still perfectly proportional. It looked like it had been hit by a shrink ray. Changing out the old bar for a fresh bar always does the trick. I always wondered why the soap worked, but at that point I had a gazillion babies and toddlers, and really all I cared about was that it DID work.
Six years ago when we suddenly moved across the country, I developed insomnia. A friend of mine suggested a supplement called Natural Calm, which is basically magnesium in a drink mix form. It did help me go to sleep at night because it's a natural relaxant. After a while I noticed that the cramps weren't coming at all. I read all the reviews (really, ALL OF THE REVIEWS) for Natural Calm on Amazon, and did some more reading about magnesium, and it turns out that magnesium is needed for over 300 processes in the body, and most people are deficient. Deficiency can manifest in a varieties of ways, like migraines, back spasms, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, chocolate cravings, and...muscle cramps.
One day I was getting out a new bar of soap for my bed and I looked at the ingredients. Guess what's in there? Magnesium. I still take magnesium every night. It relieves a variety of symptoms for me. It helps me drift off to sleep, it's perfect for constipation (especially when you're pregnant!). It prevents and stops muscle cramps. The nightly magnesium helps with the prevention, but my body's need for magnesium fluctuates, and I can tell I need more if I get a cramp. The cramping stops within a minute if I put my foot on the soap. If the cramp is extra bad I rub the soap vigorously on the skin. I told my uncle about this, and he tried it for his restless legs, and said he got better sleep than he had in years! So he now sleeps with soap.
I've tried the spray-on magnesium and magnesium oil, and those can cause my skin to itch and sting. I know people who love those forms because they can't swallow pills. If you don't want to swallow pills, Natural Calm is made to be mixed with water. It reminds me of a sucralose-laced Crystal Lite flavor. It's not bad. My kids actually like it. I usually take magnesium capsules now because I don't want to drink all that extra water at bed time.
Another great source of magnesium is epsom salt baths. Who doesn't want an excuse to take a relaxing, soothing epsom salt bath anyway? I take one a few nights a week.
My mom still eats a banana a day for potassium because even with the soap she needs it. These are all methods you can experiment with to see what helps you. For me hydration and magnesium are the keys. For my mom, the addition of the potassium in the banana is important. If I've not been drinking enough water, like on a road trip, I will get muscle cramps from dehydration, so that is always an important preventative measure. I take this water bottle with me everywhere I go and all around the house, and I drink so much more water with this than with a glass or a water bottle that I have to unscrew the lid for. I drink 2-4 liters of water a day.
Of course getting our nutrients through food instead of supplements is always preferable, but the reason we are all so deficient is the soil has been depleted of minerals thanks to mono cropping, soil erosion and modern farming methods. I won't get up on that particular soap box today, but I will say that if it's not in our soil, it can't be in our spinach, where it's supposed to be.
Always talk to your doctor before supplementing. Also, I'm not a doctor, so I don't give medical advice.
Have you suffered from chronic muscle cramps or restless legs? What have you tried? Do you sleep with soap, too? We're all friends here. You can tell us.
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