An interesting theory on the treatment of muscle cramps

Being the nerd I am, after experiencing a few days of painful muscle cramps (which I wrote about here), I went to Google like a madman. Here’s what I learned from the experience and subsequent Googling.
Most things I wrote in the original post still stand. But there are a ton of completely different types of muscle cramps; those associated with cirrhosis, MS, pregnancy, dialysis, idiopathic nocturnal (which is the type I think I had), etc.
Number 1 mandatory advice: do all the long-term stuff like broths, potassium, mag, etc (even though all of these things have mixed findings; they might work for your specific type of cramp and are unlikely to cause harm). But for immediate pain management, you may need to bite the bullet and take a muscle relaxer.
A lot of this post is inspired by a crazy theory touted by a new anti-cramp product (targeted at yet another type of cramp, exercise-associated muscle cramp [EAMC]), but the explanation of it’s mechanism is super-interesting.

I still stand by the previous interventions, except according to a few case studies and a lot of anecdotes, pickle juice can work within 1-2 minutes! That observation was part of the basis of developing this product. Some people think the acidity in pickle juice activates gastrointestinal TRP receptors (see below), and I’m totally cool with all kinds of vinegar
But I digress.

 

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  • About a half teaspoon of salt in water seems to help. I once tried to gel cap salt, but for some reason that makes me sick to my stomach, but the salt in water does not.

  • Prophylactic stretching does not reduce cramp susceptibility https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28796278

  • Ingestion of transient receptor potential channel agonists attenuates exercise-induced muscle cramps https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28192854

  • Fighting Muscle Cramps With Two Spices and One Hot Fruit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27618234

  • PICKLE JUICE rapidly suppresses certain types of muscle cramps https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19997012

    • Daz

      Do we know if the pickle juice used was with or without vinegar (naturally fermented) ?

      (I do not have access to the full study to check)

      • they didn’t say, but pH of the pickle juice was 3.15 whereas that of the distilled water was 6.0.
        Pickle juice also had more sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.

        (not sure if this link will work: http://bit.ly/2xG0rWs)

        • Daz

          Thanks for that Bill,
          Yep it will be the more available pickle juice option, ie. with vinegar.
          The study talks about acetic acid.

          • that would make sense, in line with the TRP theory

  • Tasty and healthy TR(i)Ps. The human quest for culinary pungency https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21979815

  • No effect of magnesium oxide on nocturnal muscle cramps https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28241153

    • Berny3

      I think it’s odd that the article you link to does not state how much magnesium oxide was given per day. It may be that if they gave a greater amount, the results might be different. I take magnesium citrate every night before bedtime. I’m 67 and rarely ever have cramps, maybe the beginnings of one every few months. I can’t prove a definite connection there, but something is working for me.

  • Mario Pretorius

    Ray Peat suggested Magnesium bicarb solution taken pre-exercise to hyperalkanise tissue to prevent the hyperacidity ‘burn’ (not caused by lactic acid!). Here’s a sodawater/ Milk of Magnesia home recipe:
    http://www.socialanxietysupport.com/forum#/topics/46555

    Good idea to ingest sodium bicarb pre-training to up the CO2 and the 02 muscle levels. Its alkalinity also delays or prevents the ‘burn’

    Never had cramps on these regimens. Long distance swimming & biking tested!

    • Good to know, thanks!

      Unfortunately, exercise-associated muscle cramps is very different from idiopathic nocturnal cramps.