True story: Several years ago, a local high school football player scored four touchdowns in a game to lead his team to victory.
While a number of his teammates were succumbing to leg cramps on that hot and humid Friday night, this player never lost his stride, participating in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams.
After the game, the winning coach told reporters that the secret to his star player's success was a briny beverage known as pickle juice.
Pickle juice for muscle cramps
Because it contains sodium, potassium and antioxidants, pickle juice can help restore the electrolytes lost when you sweat. A teaspoon or two of yellow mustard has also been known to ease the pain of muscle cramps. Some research suggests that a daily capsule of B vitamins or a magnesium supplement may help prevent cramps as well.
Today, pickle juice can be found in a variety of products, from sports drinks to popsicles and even slushies. Paul Provenzano, DPT, lead physical therapist at Baptist Medical Center Beaches, said drinking a little pickle juice or potassium-rich apple cider vinegar before bed can help ease leg cramps overnight.
"Leg cramps can be caused by a number of factors, from too much activity to not enough," said Provenzano. "Just standing too long can give you leg cramps. I tell my patients to stretch or massage their feet and legs before bed to help loosen up muscles for better blood flow."
Before he became a doctor of physical therapy, Provenzano spent nearly a decade as a project manager for a large construction firm. He said muscle cramps are a common occurrence on construction sites during hot weather months. Simply massaging the cramped muscle helps, he added.
Experiencing leg cramps at night?
Provenzano said the majority of his patients are over the age of 65 and many of them complain of nocturnal leg pain. Some of it may be due to the medications they are taking, including potent diuretics, which can induce cramps by depleting body fluid and sodium.
"Blood pools when you're lying down. When you get a leg cramp at night, the first thing you should do is stand up and put weight on the leg because that turns on your nervous system and activates the muscle," he said. "There's a term we use in PT called reciprocal inhibition, which describes the process of the muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of the joint. Once you contract the muscle, the muscle on the other side of the joint starts to relax."