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Easing the Pain: What Type of Magnesium is Best for Leg Cramps

Nighttime leg cramps can disrupt sleep and be caused by factors like prolonged sitting or dehydration. However, a key overlooked cause is magnesium deficiency. Different types of magnesium can address this, but which is best for leg cramps? Dive into this article to discover what type of magnesium is best for leg cramps and muscle function. Keep reading to make informed choices for better muscle health.

Whether it's from long periods of sitting or standing, dehydration, muscle overuse, or due to medication, you've likely experienced leg cramps at night where the sudden pain disrupts your sleep.

It's widely acknowledged that magnesium plays a crucial role in muscle and nerve function, potentially aiding in the relief of leg cramps. So one cause that you may have overlooked is a lack of essential minerals, particularly magnesium. 

Magnesium helps in the movement of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, essential for healthy nerve impulses and muscle contractions. Deficiency in magnesium is associated with muscle cramps, and supplementation is thought to prevent recurrent cramps. Magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate are particularly recommended for their high bioavailability and gentle effects on the stomach, respectively. These forms are often suggested for those with low magnesium levels or experiencing muscle cramps​

"While magnesium supplements, particularly citrate and glycinate forms, are widely recommended for muscle cramp relief due to their roles in muscle and nerve function, scientific evidence suggests a nuanced effectiveness. Consultation with a healthcare provider is essential to tailor supplementation to individual needs and to consider longer-term treatments if necessary," advises Dr. Akash Kansagra. 


What type of magnesium is best for leg cramps_benefits of magnesium

Magnesium and Muscle Function

Before looking at what type of magnesium is best for leg cramps, it's important to know why magnesium matters for our muscles.

Magnesium's involvement in over 300 enzymatic reactions, including those for energy metabolism and muscle function, underscores its importance. It helps in the synthesis of ATP, the primary energy source in the body, essential for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium's requirement increases with physical activity due to its role in transporting energy substrates during exercise, indicating that athletes or those engaging in regular physical activity might need higher magnesium intake​

A meta-analysis and review focusing on magnesium supplementation's impact on muscle fitness revealed positive associations between magnesium levels and muscle performance. This review suggests that adequate magnesium intake is crucial for maintaining optimal muscle function and could potentially mitigate muscle cramps, especially in populations like pregnant women, though evidence in exercise-associated cramps remains inconclusive​

Dr. Kansagra explains that magnesium serves an important role in the body by aiding in muscle relaxation after contraction. This mineral is important for preventing muscles from staying contracted, which can cause cramps. Magnesium also plays a key role in the production of energy necessary for muscle function. Maintaining adequate levels of magnesium therefore is important for muscle relaxation and energy generation.

Approximately 30% to 40% of dietary magnesium is absorbed by the body, with certain forms of magnesium supplements, such as citrate, lactate, and chloride, being more bioavailable than others like oxide and sulfate. This information is important for choosing the right magnesium supplement to ensure maximum absorption and efficacy

"Simply put, magnesium is vital for many processes in our body. For muscles, magnesium plays a key role in contraction and relaxation. Calcium helps muscles contract, but magnesium is what lets them relax. This balance is essential. Magnesium is also important for our nerves, as it tells our muscles when and how to move. Furthermore, magnesium helps our body turn the food we eat into energy. This energy, known as ATP, is what our cells use to function, and it actually needs magnesium to work properly," Dr. Kansagra adds. 

If we don't have enough magnesium, we might feel muscle weakness or even experience tremors and cramps.

Types of Magnesium

There are several types of magnesium supplements available, each with its absorption rates and benefits: 

What type of magnesium is best for leg cramps_different types

Magnesium Citrate: It's estimated that up to 20% of the general population in Western countries may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition associated with symptoms that magnesium citrate can help alleviate, such as constipation. Due to its osmotic effect in the intestines, it acts as a mild , but effective laxative, making it beneficial for individuals seeking to improve digestive health.

Magnesium Oxide: This form is less bioavailable compared to citrate but is often used for its laxative properties. Chronic constipation affects approximately 16% of adults globally, with higher rates in the elderly. To that end, despite its lower bioavailability, magnesium oxide's effectiveness as a laxative has been one of the go-to supplements for significant portion of the population, providing a cost-effective solution to a common problem.

Magnesium Glycinate: The calming effect of glycine, combined with magnesium, makes this form ideal for the substantial number of individuals seeking relief from sleep disorders and anxiety without gastrointestinal side effects. Keeping in mind that about 30% of the general population suffer from insomnia, and anxiety disorders affect about 18% of adults, it's no wonder that magnesium glycinate has recently gained more attention as a safer alternative to sleeping pills and sedatives. 

Magnesium Chloride: Found in some lotions or oils, this type is often used topically for muscle cramps and soreness. The transdermal application allows individuals who may have gastrointestinal sensitivities or require localized muscle relief to benefit from magnesium without oral ingestion. This is especially helpful for up to 60% of adults report experiencing nocturnal leg cramps, a condition where topical magnesium can offer direct muscular relief.

Magnesium Taurate: Given the cardiovascular benefits of both magnesium and taurine, this form is especially pertinent for a large segment of the population looking to support heart health and prevent Cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD is the leading cause of death globally, affecting more than 30% of the worldwide population.

Magnesium Malate: The combination with malic acid, which plays a role in the Krebs cycle for energy production, can be particularly beneficial for those with fibromyalgia and similar energy-deficient conditions. This is especially useful for  those who suffer from Fibromyalgia, a condition that affects about 2-4% of the population, with sufferers often experiencing fatigue and muscle pain.

Best Magnesium for Leg Cramps

When dealing with leg cramps, you have to choose a magnesium supplement that offers effective relief and minimizes potential digestive issues. Here's a closer look at why Magnesium Glycinate and Magnesium Chloride stand out as optimal choices for this purpose:

Magnesium Glycinate

This type of magnesium is often recommended for those seeking magnesium supplementation to alleviate muscle cramps due to its high bioavailability and gentle effect on the stomach3.

What type of magnesium is best for leg cramps_1

  • High Bioavailability: Magnesium glycinate is known for its superior absorption rate. This means your body can utilize it more effectively, ensuring that the magnesium reaches the muscles where it's needed to alleviate cramps.
  • Gentle on the Stomach: Unlike some other forms of magnesium that can cause diarrhea or other digestive disturbances, magnesium glycinate is less likely to have a laxative effect. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who may be sensitive to magnesium's gastrointestinal side effects or those who are looking for a supplement that won't disrupt their digestive system.
  • Muscle Relaxation: The glycine in magnesium glycinate may help enhance muscle relaxation and improve sleep quality, further contributing to its effectiveness in managing leg cramps. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can have a calming effect on the brain and body, helping to ease muscle tension.

Magnesium Chloride

As a topical solution, magnesium chloride can be directly applied to the affected area for cramp relief. This bypasses the digestive system entirely, reducing the risk of a laxative effect.

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  • Topical Application: Magnesium chloride can be applied directly to the skin, offering targeted relief for leg cramps. This method allows the magnesium to be absorbed through the skin directly into the muscular tissue, providing fast-acting cramp relief.
  • Bypasses the Digestive System: By using a topical form of magnesium, you avoid the gastrointestinal tract altogether, which can be particularly advantageous for those prone to digestive upset with oral supplements. This means you can achieve cramp relief without risking the laxative effects that some oral magnesium supplements might cause.
  • Versatility: Magnesium chloride is available in various topical forms, including lotions, gels, and sprays, making it easy to apply and incorporate into your routine for muscle cramp management.


Before incorporating magnesium supplements into your regimen, understanding the precautions is critical, especially for individuals with specific health conditions or those on certain medications.

  • Kidney Conditions: Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys, so those with reduced kidney function may not be able to effectively remove excess magnesium from their body. This can lead to hypermagnesemia, a condition characterized by an abnormally high level of magnesium in the blood, which can be dangerous.
  • Medication Interactions: Magnesium can interact with various medications, including diuretics, antibiotics, and medications used to treat osteoporosis (bisphosphonates). These interactions can either reduce the effectiveness of the medications or lead to increased magnesium levels in the body.
  • Supplement Dosage and Type: The appropriate dose and type of magnesium can vary based on individual health needs and conditions. Exceeding the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for magnesium through supplements without medical advice can lead to adverse effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. 

As Dr. Kansagra points out: 

"It's important for patients, especially those with existing kidney issues or who are on medications with potential interactions, to consult with a healthcare provider before starting magnesium supplements. While magnesium plays a vital role in muscle and nerve function, improper supplementation can lead to complications. A tailored approach, considering the individual's health status and medication regimen, ensures the safe and effective use of magnesium."

What Type of Magnesium is Best for Leg Cramps?

While various forms of magnesium can provide relief from leg cramps, magnesium glycinate is often recommended for its high absorption rate and gentleness on the digestive system. For direct application, magnesium chloride oils or lotions can also be beneficial. Remember, it's essential to ensure an adequate magnesium intake through diet or supplementation, but always consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best option for you.

To shop Dr. Mortiz magnesium citrate, click the link below. 


If you want to learn more about magnesium, be sure to check out our other articles below: 

Unlocking Restful Nights: What Type of Magnesium is Best for Sleep?

The Comprehensive Guide to Types of Magnesium: What You Need to Know

What Type of Magnesium Should I Take? A Personalized Guide to Making the Right Choice