Q. I have tried just about everything for leg cramps and have found nothing that helps. My doctor has me on Lyrica and potassium, hoping that might help. It hasn’t.

I was awakened three times last night and the attacks last as long as fifteen minutes. Do you have any suggestions? I am at my wits’ end and exhausted!

 

A. Now that the FDA bars doctors from prescribing quinine for cramps, there are no obvious prescription solutions to this problem. Readers have offered a number of home remedies. These range from sensible approaches like stretching the leg muscles before bed or drinking low-sodium V-8 juice to peculiar habits like sipping pickle juice, swallowing a spoonful of mustard or slipping a bar of soap under the bottom sheet. Each method has supporters.

We have collected these recommendations in our Guide to Leg Pain, and we are sending you a copy so you can try them and find one that works.

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  1. Cyn
    Nevada
    Reply

    Since menopause, I have suffered “boiling leg and foot cramps” that wake me up and blow me out of bed. The only fix for me is to get hot packs (as hot as I can stand) and put them on my feet. Stops them.

  2. MADELEINE D.
    Reply

    For many years I had excruciating night time leg and foot cramps, waking several times each night. I would take a drink high in electrolytes to relieve the cramp but the cramps would come back a few hours later.
    I started to eat kimchi (a Korean peppery fermented cabbage relish) by chance, because I watched Korean dramas and was curious about the national dish. I noticed that when I ate some kimchi during the day, I did not have cramps at night or the cramps were greatly reduced. (When you have such severe pains nightly you are really curious why you get to sleep through the night. And, so I would analyze what I ate during the day. Kimchi was the key).
    I started to eat a little kimchi everyday. Kimchi is very high in good micro-organisms that are beneficial for the absorption of nutrients and minerals in the stomach and intestines. I would say that just eating kimchi improved my condition by about 85%.
    Recently, I read an article that indicated artificial sweeteners may actually interfere with absorption of nutrients and/or even kill microbes. I was a big user of the blue and pink stuff. I stopped using those sweeteners. From vast improvement (adding fermented food to my diet), my condition zoomed up to 100% cured. I sleep like a baby. My entire feeling of well being has been boosted.
    I recommend that you add some fermented food to your diet each day. There are many fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles. And if, like me, you use artificial sweeteners, eliminate them immediately. Try it, because it worked for me as I say like a miracle and you have nothing to lose.

  3. g k
    Reply

    My father has diabetic and now he is suffering form leg cramp having too much leg pain and he is not able to walk. A few months back he suffered from tb and pneumonia doctor said that duw high dosage of medicine hes suffering leg cramp too much of pain and not able to walk and sleep please give some good solution.

  4. JWP
    Reply

    I do handyman work and a lot of jobs require repetitive motions. I have had cramps in my arms, back, hands, fingers, neck, sides, calves, feet, toes and thighs, believe me the thigh muscles are the worst place to get a cramp (Bigger muscle = tighter cramp). It usually starts in one leg and then more times than not other leg kicks in and it is excruciating. I usually drink pickle juice and they are gone in seconds, not minutes.

  5. Michelle
    Reply

    I had excruciatingly painful leg spasms and cramps for years. Tried many legs. I just recently found the only leg that has ever worked- aloe vera! The store bought gel has not worked for me. The gel from the plant works like magic however.

  6. Ellen Mini
    Reply

    I also have diabetic peripheral neuropathy. These are the things that help me: Vitamin B6, also Vitamin B Complex, Anodyne Therapy. Hydrotherapy – put feet in buckets of hot and cold water, alternating. Hot as you can take, and cold as you can take. The following is a quote from my Naturopath. Take my advice – this works and costs nothing.
    The premise is simple: vary water temperature to a body part (hands, feet, chest, pelvis, etc) hot to cold, alternating quickly. Let’s say you have varicose veins. You can place two pans in the bathtub that both your feet fit comfortably in. Place hot water (make water as hot as is comfortable but be careful not to burn yourself) in one tub and cold water in the other. (If you feel gutsy, throw in a few ice cubes.) Place both feet into the hot water for 30 seconds, then quickly pick them up and place them in the cold for 15 seconds. Go back in the hot water for 30 seconds, then in the cold water for 15seconds. Alternate them back and forth about 10-15 times, and finish with cold.

  7. Ellen M
    Reply

    Up your intake of magnesium by 100 or 200 mg per day until you have loose stools. Then back off by 100 mg and that should be your dose of magnesium required by your body. This is from my Naturopath.

  8. TLA
    Reply

    Hi-
    Couple of suggestions. First if you are using dairy products,stop! Use almond, soy or rice milk. New research is showing milk is becoming more and more toxic with pesticides, drugs, etc and milk proteins are very bad for many people. Then ask your Dr about the Magnesium dosage, the RDA is 400mg. If you are not taking a very good quality multi-vitamin, start. Our food is lacking in many nutrients it had even 30 years ago. To much calcium and to little Magnesium is a common reason for cramps. Good Luck!

  9. KG
    Reply

    I have had leg cramps for what seems like forever…they don’t hurt until I get up in the mornings, they start after walking to the bathroom and last all day until I “knock” myself out w/pills…the cramps are in both legs…front and back…from thigh to ankles!! I am on 100mg Neurontin 3x per day and other meds for lower back pain that I have had for years…the leg cramps used to only be in my thighs in front and only at night. Has changed to complete legs all the time after I get up and walk….resting my legs does not help…
    I have been wrapping my legs w/ace wraps from ankles to upper thighs as tight as I can get it. It helps to take the pain away for a little while…I am also on .5mg of Kolopin 2x per day for leg cramps..have been on this med for over 6 months..
    I went to doc this past Wed. and told her I am still in constant pain from leg cramps& she told me to be careful about wrapping my legs (due to possible blood clots) she told me to add OTC magnesium. 1-250mg per day.. so far not helping…I have tried TED hose but they don’t help much….can anyone suggest ANYTHING that may possibly help?? I told doc that I wish I could have paralysis from my waist down just to get rid of the pain!!!

  10. labib
    Reply

    My weight is too much so did some sit sups then I had a lot of pain in both of my leg muscles. Can you exactly say to me what has occurred to me and whats its remedy?

  11. Leela
    Reply

    There is a good chance you are on a growth spurt which is causing the cramping due to extra need for minerals. Calcium may be a good choice for you.
    If you were eating fatty foods prior to the cramps, the acid in the sugar could be helping break up the fats.

  12. Leela
    Reply

    I have just recovered from leg cramps tonight which were so painful I had to crawl out to the kitchen to get some calcium powder. The cramps are now gone within minutes of taking calcium, I have run a hot bath to help relax the muscles enough for hopefully a little sleep. And yes was given a box of chocs tonight, and ate several before going to bed. Thank you for posting as hadn’t heard before of the fat connection, only the lack of minerals.

  13. WA
    Reply

    There is an old time Amish remedy made by Caleb Treeze Organic Farm in California that stops leg cramps in about a minute. Stopped mine in about half that time. It’s a liquid and you can either drink it or rub it on the cramping muscle.

  14. CM
    Reply

    Try 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar diluted with a bit of water a couple hours before bed. Works like magic to stop and prevent leg and foot cramps!

  15. PB
    Reply

    Yes – I have stopped eating yogurth and fatty foods and my cramps have slowed down.

  16. L.T
    Reply

    I get leg cramps randomly during some days. For ages I was baffled as to why. I tried all sorts to help but I have found that simply placing a hot water bottle on the area of the cramp works best to relive the pain from the cramp. Try it! It works!

  17. TJ
    Reply

    I get leg cramps in my lower legs and have never had them in my thighs. Since I am 11 I don’t take tablets I just massage the affected area with my thumbs and eat sugary foods. I don’t know how eating sugary things helps but I discovered it sped up the recovery time while I was watching a movie. After that I relax them led down with them raised with 2-3 cushions. works every time.

  18. TL
    Reply

    Calcium, magnesium and potassium…every night. Men with low calcium get leg cramps…

  19. crampysmaster
    Reply

    I keep bananas near my bed when I get a cramp I take a banana. That helps.

  20. aa
    Reply

    Funny: I just reached for the V8 juice, and did it work? Maybe. Also potassium and zinc, maybe bromelain and boswellia.

  21. sue
    Reply

    On Friday I got a cramp in my thigh in the back. By Sunday I still had it. My sister lent me a massager\infared heat combo. Man by Sunday afternoon I am almost good as new! I only used it for about ten minutes Sunday morning.

  22. wms
    Reply

    My husband has had diabetic neuropathy for a number of years. He had the pain under control with lyrica 300mg. 2 capsules 3 times a day but his prescription ins. has put a stop to that many saying that neuropathy does not call for that many pills a day. (let them have the pain). Now my husband is at his wits end as the pain has come back (of course). My husband’s neuropathy Doctor does not seem to know what to do for him now. Does anyone have any ideas? We have tried fighting the insurance and have gotten no where. We think it is time to find another doctor who has a different perspective on this but not sure that will do any good. Please help !!!

  23. Helen
    Reply

    I have lived with excruciating cramps my entire life. I have them in my toes, feet (top and bottom), calves (front and back), thighs – everywhere – mostly at night. They sometimes last into the following day.
    I have not found a specific cause or cure. Can anyone help me? I have tried the Amish formula, but it didn’t help. I am at my wit’s end.

    • Jenny
      Sydney, Australia
      Reply

      I have reduced Salicylates from my diet, and it has really helped control my cramps. I get cramps from spices, sauces, processed foods, certain fruit, especially tomatoes and from alcohol. All are high in Salicylates.

  24. cook
    Reply

    Although quinine is not prescribed anymore, drink a lot of tonic water. It has quinine in it. That plus magnesium and potassium supplements are the only thing that prevents them.

  25. Rose
    Reply

    The National Academy of Sciences now (2004) recommends 4700 mg of Potassium every day as the daily requirement. Most of us find it hard to get that on an average calorie diet unless we are careful. Perhaps low Potassium leads to some cramps. I avoid sodium.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: TO GET THAT AMOUNT OF POTASSIUM, PEOPLE NEED TO EAT 8 TO 10 SERVINGS OF VEGETABLES AND FRUITS DAILY.

  26. Michelle
    Reply

    I have had severe “painful” leg and foot spasms since a teen. I am now 40. I noticed that I get the cramps after eating fatty foods. Has anyone ever heard of or experienced this?

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