PT on the Net Research

Muscle Cramps and Potassium


Question:

My 27 year old male client is an ex-collegiate basketball player who is now a little over weight but definitely active. He plays basketball at least three times per week along with some light strength training. We are working on a program to reduce body fat and improve his overall fitness, especially posture. His lower back and hamstrings are extremely inflexible, and in discussing this, he revealed to me that he feels as though he can never relax his muscles. We discussed both relaxation methods (he's tried meditation, aromatherapy, massage and a warm bath, but none has worked thus far) and nutrition. He says his doctor has prescribed potassium supplements for him for years. Any ideas on why his doctor would prescribe potassium? Couldn't this be dangerous?

Answer:

The symptoms of low potassium can include muscle cramps, so I believe the doctor prescribed the potassium supplement to see if it eliminated the muscle tightness and cramps. My impression is that it has not produced the desired effects after significant time, and if serum potassium levels (blood levels) are normal, it can be discontinued. The kidneys regulate potassium levels very effectively in the body, so an individual with normal kidney function would not be in danger by taking a potassium supplement in a case like this. You mention that a calcium and magnesium supplement has not been tried. I agree with you that this would be the next logical approach. Many times, muscle cramps or tightness occur in individuals with calcium deficiencies. I would recommend your client ask his doctor if a trial of 500 mg of calcium and 250 mg of magnesium a day is worth trying. Your approach to this client has been very thoughtful. I hope you find a way to help him.