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Getting Rid Of Leg Cramps

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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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I have had leg cramps off and on for many years. For most of those years Hylands Homeopathic LEG CRAMPS formula with quinine worked for me. They are tiny tablets that dissolve instantly under the tongue. I keep a box by my bed. I also keep a bar of soap under my bottom sheet. I don't get cramps too often anymore, but when I do, if the Hylands formula doesn't work, as quickly as I can get to the kitchen, I swallow either a Magnesium or Calcium capsule, which stops the cramps immediately.

I have suffered horribly from leg cramps also, and the remedy that helps me is taking calcium with magnesium and zinc.

My hubby tried everything, and finally I gave him some of my Jigsaw magnesium and it worked. I got it for my blood pressure. Yes, we'd tried about four kinds of magnesium before trying the Jigsaw Health brand.

It works!

Two each about 1/2 hour before bedtime.

I used to get leg cramps a lot. They would wake me up at night. Now that I take enough Cal/Mag I don't. I take it at night an hour before bed.

If I drink gatoraid during the day that seems to help. The doctor has also given me a prescription of cyclobenzaprine that helps. I don't take it every night, but when I do I don't get the leg cramps.

I too suffered with excruciating leg cramps at night in bed. I was taking calcium tablets when someone told me to take liquid calcium. Well it worked. I take a tablespoonful AM and one in the evening. Mine comes with magnesium and vitamin D. The cramps stopped.

Tonic water has quinine in it, and has helped me a lot, as a quick aid. I keep it at my bedside. I also found out that I had celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and, since I stopped absorbing iron properly and became anemic, maybe calcium/magnesium absorbtion was affected also. The change in diet has helped a lot, but the tonic water, or maybe a spoonful of mustard, will be a quick relief.

I learned about Hyland's Homeopathic Magnesium Phosphate from a doctor in Australia. I carry it with me always and keep it beside my bed. The little tablets are dissolved under the tongue and give relief within a few minutes. These pills contain no quinine, which can be harmful to some.

I, too, used to have excrutiating bouts of leg cramps. Someone touted to me the benefits of a cocktail comprised of three parts red grape juice, two parts apple juice (I substitute cranberry-apple) and one part raw "mothers" vinegar. I drink 4-6 oz. twice a day, diluted with water. No more cramps.

Leg cramps were awakening me every half hour at night. My orthopedist recommended pilates exercises... specifically, the ones involving twisting the feet and lower abdominals. When I forget to do them, the pain returns almost immediately. I am 70 years old but the pilates work plus making me feel great. Sue D.

I had bad leg cramps for years and they were finally tracked down to Fosamax and Boniva. What is a person to do when treating one condition causes another?

I suffered from foot and leg cramps, and the doctor put me on quinine, which helped some. Then the FDA pulled it from the market. He suggested quinine water, which I don't like, so he put me on Neurotin (Gabapentin) and I also put myself on Magnesium and Potassium. I am doing better, but it has not eliminated them. I only drink a glass of water once or twice a day. Any suggestions?

Some years ago when I was under extreme stress for an extended period, I started getting surreal and unstoppable leg cramps at night, often in the front of the legs--curling my big toe right up towards my knee. I tried the homeopathic "quinine", which helped a bit. But what seemed to help most was taking a good dose of vitamin B6, which I have always seemed to have a high requirement for.

I have may have sent this before but....quinine...via tonic water. Four ounces at bedtime. For me it works very noticeably and after a few days doesn't seem to be necessary every night. We opt for the Diet version. It was recommended by my doctor.

I quite often used to stretch when I first woke up in the morning and would often get a terrible leg cramp. I even started getting them without stretching. About 3 or 4 years ago my sister suggested putting a bar of soap under my bottom sheet and laying my lower legs on it. I did that and have seldom had any cramps since. It's magic!!

I've had varicose veins for 25 years, which never caused me pain or cramping. However, after menopause, I started experiencing horrible night-time "charlie horses" and general cramping as well as restless legs. I too tried many of the solutions cited above, but nothing worked. My regular doctor suggested I see a vascular doctor, who suggested I take Horse Chestnut Seed Extract (HCSE). He told me it is regularly prescribed in Germany for the "side effects" of varicose veins. I purchased it at a local GNC ($11.99/bottle) and take one 2x a day--12 hours apart. In addition, I started a walking routine--30 minutes a day 5 days a week. I have been doing this since February, and have not had a leg cramp since. I did a bit of research on the internet on HCSE and research has proven its efficacy as well.

I haven't had leg cramps since I started taking 2 capsules of wheat germ oil every day. It's not easy to find, I have have to order it online.

Because quinine, which always worked for me, is not allowed as a prescription anymore, I do 10 deep knee bends each night before I go to bed. I also do 10 seconds of stretching for each leg. My doctor said this breaks down the lactic acid that builds up naturally in my legs. So far so good.

When leg cramps occur, I take 2-3 capsules of 400 IU Vit E. These usually work in 4-5 minutes. If I am in extreme pain, I chew them. The brand I find most effective is Nature's Life. These Vit E capsules are 100% natural d-alpha tocopherol plus 5mg. mixed tocopherols.

Homeopathic remedies Zincum met and Cuprum met are effective also.

Hyland's Leg Cramps homeopathic remedy with quinine is still available.

I have been taking Fosamax since it was first approved by the FDA and was part of a study by Merck. Over the past 2 years I have been having excruciating foot and leg cramps during the night and piercing stabs near my ankles during the day. I can stop taking the Fosamax and the symptoms disappear, but when I resume the medication, it all starts again. This is not listed as a side effect, but it seems pretty common from all that I've been reading on the internet. Are all Osteoporous meds the same?

I was told that Turmeric-a spice used to make pickles-is the cure. I sprinkle it on food or eat a tablespoon of mustard. It took my cramps away. cheap and worth a try.
Elaine

I have leg cramps too and discovered it was from Lyrica. They were severe leg cramps too. I stopped the Lyrica and the leg cramps stopped immediately. Then the diabetic neuropathy pain came back in my legs with a vengance so now I am back on the Lyrica and eating bananas. If the bananas don't work I am getting some quinine from my dr.

I have suffered with severe cramps day and night in my legs and feet and toes, and recent years they have worsened to the muscles in the front of my legs, and even in my thighs and sometimes around my ribs. The only thing which I have found to help me is the Hylands leg cramps with quinine, but the caplets are the ones which help me. The others don't seem to do as well. I might add that I had the doctor prescribe quinine for me before and it didn't work half so well as the Hylands caplets.

My MD prescribed quinine for leg cramps. A year or two later my platelets dropped to 6000. I was diagnosed with ITP. The hemotogiost told me to stop taking quinine, immediately. I underwent treatment with gammaglobulin IV, then, reducing dosages of steroids for 2 or 3 months. That was 5 years ago; platelets are low end of normal now.

Until I read some of the info in your column, I never knew there was a connection. Has there been any proof positive? When did the FDA take quinine off the market?
Now I've started stretching before bedtime again; recently took some pickle juice before bedtime. Both seem to work.

I routinely eat 3/4 cup of plain yogurt on my cooked oatmeal/almond meal/ground flaxseed cereal. I've been out of yogurt for 3 days and realize I haven't had the leg cramps since!

I have restless legs a lot during the day and at night. I'm back on neurontin on a higher dosage. But I do want to try this soap trick. Sounds fascinating and if it works then I would be so grateful.

So far the only thing that works for me is to lie on my side, on the side that the restless leg is affecting. As soon as I'm on my side, the restlessness in my leg dies down. I usually stay on my side for about 20 minutes just to make sure it has quit. And I can't stay longer than that on my side because I have pain on both sides that makes it uncomfortable to lie like that. So, I'm eager to try the bar of soap trick.

Although my leg cramps during the night are infrequent, they are no picnic.
I find that a teaspoon of mustard (any variety) helps instantly. Also, even though doctors no longer prescribe quinine, there must be SOME in quinine water. I find that a couple of sips help also; since I don't always have that on hand, I do rely on the mustard.

The other night, for the first time, I experienced severe cramps in my thighs. I could barely walk to the kitchen to get to my mustard. I haven't had a chance to ask my doctor yet -- has anyone else had "thigh cramps"?

Yes, Jaybee, I get thigh cramps frequently. I think those are so much worse than the ones I get in my lower legs or toes. The pain is so intense that there is no way to get out to the kitchen for any relief. I have never heard of using mustard before until I read about it here. I keep a box of baking soda in my bathroom, which is about 6 feet from my side of the bed. I just dump some in a small glass of water and sip it. Within a minute or two the relief will start and be completely gone in a few minutes.

I read somewhere to put 1/4 tsp. of soda in water, but again, when the pain is so intense, I'm not going to bother to measure out what I need. It seems like the stronger the water is with the soda, the faster it works, and the least amount it takes for relief. I never have figured out why I get them, so this is my quick solution. Hope it helps.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: BAKING SODA IS HIGH IN SODIUM, SO THIS REMEDY IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR PEOPLE WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE OR OTHERS WHO NEED TO LIMIT SODIUM INTAKE.

Tonic water works to prevent cramps for me also, however it is difficult to drink that stuff every day. Now I have found that 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) a day also seems to prevent cramps.

I have horrible leg and thigh and foot cramps. What works "instantly" is to get a small amount of water in a glass and dump a lot of salt in it--just open the salt shaker. Stir quickly and take a big sip, then a drink of coke or whatever you wish. Do this three times, and cramps will go away in about 2 or 3 minutes.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: MANY PEOPLE SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT IMBIBING SO MUCH SALT.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 !!!

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.

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


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

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

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.

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!

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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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?

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!!!

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!

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.

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.

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