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Electrolyte balance

Leg cramps

Isabel Weinert & Marta Campbell
02.07.2018  15:06 Uhr

Leg cramps are very common. Almost half of Germany’s population is occasionally affected by it. Risk groups are athletes, pregnant women and senior citizens as here various causes can lead to a change in the electrolyte balance. Being off balance, magnesium, potassium and calcium can no longer interact optimally when transmitting stimuli between nerves and muscles, and the tendency to get cramps increases.

Apart from the risk groups mentioned, people who overexert themselves ­often get a cramp in their calves, but also those who are not moving much or suffer from feet malpositions. Cramps can also occur without any plausible cause. This is referred to as an ­idiopathic form. 

If symptomatic muscle cramps are involved, these may be symptoms of an underlying disease which can be polyneuropathy and the restless legs syndrome, in rarer cases multiple ­sclerosis or an amyothrophic lateral sclerosis. It is not uncommon that leg cramps can also occur due to the side effects of medications such as ­conjugated estrogens, statins, ­diuretics, beta blockers, calcium ­antagonists, beta sympathomimetics or antidepressants.


  • How long have you been suffering from leg cramps?
  • At which time of day do they primarily occur?
  • Have you already had something like this in the past?
  • Do you have any additional symptoms?
    What have you done against it so far?
  • Have you already had something like this in the past?
  • Have you consulted a doctor because of these symptoms?
  • Have you already had something like this in the past?
  • Do you suffer from diabetes (danger of polyneuropathy) or a restless leg syndrome?
  • Have you already had something like this in the past?
  • Do you have an orthopaedic problem?
    Which medication do you take?
  • How much time do you spend moving about?


  • Most likely your electrolyte balance has got mixed up.
  • There are two active ingredients which are applied against leg cramps: quinine and magnesium.
  • Quinine can, however, only be obtained on prescription and should only be used in the case of severe leg cramps.
  • Magnesium will not help in every case, but a therapeutic attempt is worthwhile.
  • Magnesium may also be taken during pregnancy.
  • Magnesium will best help against leg cramps during pregnancy.
  • In addition, medical guidelines recommend stretching exercises.
  • You can also try applying rubbing alcohol on your legs to see if the cramps will ease.
  • Another illness can also be the cause of leg cramps. Therefore your doctor should be informed about it.

Additional information

  • After three months of treatment with magnesium you can try to do without it.
  • If you do some stretching before sport you will prevent cramps which would occur due to the strain.
  • Nutrition is also a factor in the case of leg cramps. Make sure to have a balanced diet with plenty of whole grain products and nuts.
  • Drink alcohol only rarely.
  • If you are an athlete, you can drink an electrolyte drink before training.
  • Movement can ease your complaints considerably. It is sufficient if you go for a walk every day.
  • It is best if you wear comfortable shoes.
  • Hot and cold contrast showers in the direction of the heart will stimulate the blood circulation. This too can be effective against cramps in the calves.
Deutsch / German Englisch / English
Chinin quinine
Dehnübung stretching exercises
Durchblutung blood circulation
Elektrolytgetränk electrolyte drink
Elektrolythaushalt electrolyte balance
Grunderkrankung underlying disease
Muskulatur muscles
Nebenwirkung side effect
Nerven nerves
Nüsse nuts
Reizübertragung transmission of stimul
Risikogruppe risk group
Therapieversuch therapeutical attempt
Vollkornprodukte whole-grain products
Wadenkrampf cramp in the calf
Wadenkrämpfe leg cramps
Wechselduschen contrast showers (hot and cold)
Vocabulary on electrolyte balance