Weakness, Cramping, and Pain in Muscles
Muscle cramps usually occur after injury, or buildup of lactic acid after strenuous activity. But if you are experiencing cramping in your muscles on a frequent basis and there is no obvious explanation, hypokalemia may be the culprit. This is because Potassium plays an important role in maintaining proper muscle function.
Since it functions as an electrolyte, potassium handles the transmission of electrical nerve impulses. Muscles contract because of these electrical impulses from nerves. If there is a potassium deficiency in the body, muscles become rigid leading to tension and weakened function. Weak muscles and muscle spasms, particularly in the arms and legs, are common symptoms of hypokalemia.
Besides cramping and weakened muscles, muscle pain is also a common occurrence. This is due to potassium deficiency damaging muscle cells. Your muscles will ache and feel tender when you touch them, despite lack of any strenuous activity. Muscle pain caused by potassium deficiency is most often felt in the leg region, but can also appear in any muscle. Owing to the weakened muscles and pain, lifting even moderate to heavy objects proves difficult.
Left untreated, hypokalemia has been shown to cause a paralysis-like sensation. But, intravenous potassium intake has been shown effective in reversing this within 24 hours. Although recovery is possible, the paralysis can be immediately hazardous if you are walking or driving. Untreated hypokalemia may also result in rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle tissue is broken down. According to the Institute of Medicine, adults should consume 4, 700 mg of potassium daily. This amount is necessary for the support of muscle function and overall good health.