Diabetes and Muscle Cramps: Cause, Prevention, Relief

Muscle cramps, or spasms, are involuntary contractions (shortening) of our skeletal muscles. Cramps can occur at any time but often wake people during the night. They can affect any muscle but usually show up in the calves, thighs, feet and arms.

Since having either high or low blood sugar contributes to spasms, many people with diabetes report having from mild to severely painful muscle cramping.

Causes of Cramping

Glucose and Electrolytes

The proper contraction and relaxation of our muscles requires a fuel source such as glucose, and a balanced exchange of electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) flowing through the cell membranes.

When blood sugar is low, the muscles can become starved for fuel. When blood sugar runs high our body excretes excess glucose via urine, causing dehydration, and a depletion of electrolytes.

These types of imbalances cause cramping in athletes engaged in extended strenuous exercise, those who are active without proper conditioning or hydration, and in active or sedentary people with fluctuating blood glucose.

Nerves and Circulation

Complications from diabetes can trigger muscle cramps as well. Since poor circulation and nerve damage may instigate spasms, people with peripheral vascular disease or peripheral neuropathy may be prone to cramps. In rare cases, muscle cramps are a symptom of kidney problems.

Medications

Medications and substances that contribute to the incidence of muscle cramps include insulin, lipid (cholesterol) lowering drugs, antihypertensives, beta-agonists, antipsychotics, oral contraceptives, and alcohol.

Other Causes

Muscle cramps are also associated with thyroid disease, hemodialysis, fatigue, pregnancy, poor flexibility, spinal nerve compression, and sitting, standing, or lying in one position for long periods.

Preventing Cramps: Six Suggestions

Other than monitoring your glucose carefully, consider the following tips to prevent muscle cramps.

  1. Before going to bed, loosen your muscles with a hot bath or shower, by riding an exercise bike a few minutes, or by doing some gentle stretching exercises.
  2. Warm up your muscles well before exercising and stay hydrated.
  3. Eat foods rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium, milk, broccoli, salmon, sardines and bananas and talk to your doctor about taking nutritional supplements.
  4. Wear supportive shoes, and if you stand a lot, stand on a rubber mat.
  5. Consider practicing yoga to keep your muscles and joints flexible.
  6. Avoid sitting still for long periods of time.

Calming the Cramps

Let your diabetes care team know if you are experiencing muscle cramps. They can run simple tests to pinpoint the exact cause, if necessary, and recommend individualized solutions.

The most common remedy for muscle cramps is to massage and stretch the affected muscle. For instance, if the calf muscle is cramping, you can massage it and/or stretch out the leg and gently pull the toes toward the top of the foot.

Some people find relief with warm or cold compresses or by rubbing an ice cube over the cramping muscle. Others use an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, or take prescribed muscle relaxers.

There is some controversy about using quinine tablets or drinking tonic water for muscle cramps, so it is best to discuss this questionable option with your doctor.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Diabetes In Control
Photo: Pexels

Get a Free Diabetes Meal Plan

Get a free 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan from Constance Brown-Riggs who is a Registered Dietitian-Certified Diabetes Educator and who is also a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Just enter in your email below to download your free Diabetes Meal Plan.

By clicking Submit, you agree to send your info to InformationAboutDiabetes.com who may contact you with updates and information and we agree to use it according to our privacy policy.

More Articles

It is estimated that 80,000 children and adolescents each year are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Juvenile diabetes is diagnosed when the body...

As the summer months come to an end, we throw aside our swimsuits and bring out our favorite team jerseys! In America, fall means football, and...

The medical community relies heavily on the goodwill of its citizens, as giving blood and organ donations help save thousands of lives every year...

Evidence is mounting that consuming black cumin helps to manage type 2 diabetes. The spice lowered blood glucose...

It's not uncommon to spend several years living with type 2 diabetes and not even know you have the condition. Despite regular check-ups with your...

More Articles

Type 2 diabetes has become so common in Western culture and media that this often lifelong, serious condition doesn't really raise an eyebrow...

Limiting our intake of highly processed foods, and eating more whole and lightly processed fare can boost our nutrient and fiber intake, lower...

Lantus is a once a day insulin injection that is taken at the same time every day. It replaces anywhere from the average three to five insulin...

Improving your A1C reading requires you to maintain consistently healthy blood...

Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean you can't help your community by being a blood donor. When persons with diabetes maintain good control...

Most of us do not regularly keep the fruit that scientists call Fortunella margarita in our refrigerator. That these small, yellow-orange...

A diagnosis of diabetes usually comes with a list of recommended lifestyle changes. To make these diet and exercise...

Having diabetes affects your body’s ability to handle hot, humid weather, and steamy temperatures can degrade diabetes supplies. But all of this...

Fashion and function come together in clothing developed by AnnaPS, making life a bit more comfortable and convenient for insulin users. The...

Not only is dry skin uncomfortable, but scratched or cracked skin is also susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections – common medical...

One way to ensure our body gets a variety of nutrients is eating nutrient-dense foods, and one of the most nutrient-dense foods on our planet is...

Financial aid and scholarship money are available for people with diabetes, but acquiring it requires an investment of time and patience. Whether...

Any sweetener you use to replace table sugar is a sugar substitute. One type of sugar substitute is artificial sweetener. Three other types...

Smoking is a proven health hazard for everyone, but it is an especially dangerous habit for those with diabetes. Research shows that smokers with...

While life on the road can be tough on musicians, it’s especially challenging for those battling diabetes. Some musicians have to check their...