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Desperate for Relief from Leg Cramps

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Q. My doctor prescribed quinine for my leg cramps. With all the controversy and severe reactions described online, not to mention the FDA position on it, I am reluctant to try it. I have been in dire straits for weeks and I don't know what else to do.

I am already taking magnesium, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, fish oil and valerian root with no relief. I'm at the end of my rope, and doctors don't seem to want to help with this. What do you suggest?

A. The FDA forbids the use of quinine for leg cramps because it can cause life-threatening reactions affecting the blood. As a result, doctors have little to offer people with painful leg cramps. Although sensitive people may suffer a reaction from drinking tonic water, that is one form in which quinine is still available.

Other readers have offered their own solutions, and we provide them in our Guide to Leg Pain. Some options to swallow include low-sodium V8 juice, yellow mustard or apple cider vinegar and honey in warm water. Stretching the muscles before bed can often help, and we have detailed instructions.

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37 Comments

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I had not replenished my Ivory soap for leg cramps. Early this morning I woke up with cramps in the shin and ankles of my right and left legs. I went to the bathroom and rubbed liquid hand soap on both legs. The cramps went away. I have eaten mustard and it works very well.
Have you ever heard of using the liquid soap?

In addition can you put Rum on the white raisins instead of Gin?

MM

Leg cramps!! A while ago on this site, someone suggested putting a bar of soap between the sheets of your bed at night. As crazy as it sounds, this works..I got relief the very 1st night. TRY IT

I would test out putting a bar of soap in my bed, either under the bottom sheet or possibly inside of a sock.

I do think my bar of soap has made a difference that even magnesium did not help.

Will it work for you?

If not the first time, try a different brand of soap. It is a very cheap way to test it's effectiveness for you.

Drink anything before going to bed. As an adult, I used to suffer occasionally from leg cramps or a jerking leg at night. I believe it was due to mild dehydration. Later I put 2 and 2 together and realized the nightly "growing pains" I had as a child were certainly due to dehydration. This remedy is simple and non-toxic to try.

Tj is person needs to be told about soap for leg cramps.

I have used tonic water and relieves the cramps almost immediately, only an ounce or so. Works great!

I have suffered from severe leg cramps for years, and have tried most of the non-medicinal options, such as turmeric, and yes, soap at the end of my bed. Although it was prescribed for something else, the best thing I have found is gabapentin, but I discontinued that. My PCP suggested tonic water, which I tried, but disliked. All that trouble for a little bit of quinine. I found an over the counter product which contains quinine and other ingredients, and it works ok. The best outcome has been a prescription from my PCP for clonazepam. I take one half of a .5mg tablet about 2 hrs before bed and have no cramps.

Don't forget to take calcium, magnesium supplement.

Creatine is the best preventive I've found. Draws and keeps water within the muscle. Typically use 1-5 grams before bedtime when dehydration could be expected. Better than vinegar based products, tonic water, Mg, etc. IMO. Avoiding caffeine and diuretics like tea in the evening helps. Failing to follow my own advice, a little naproxen (with hot water soak if needed) works quickest and prevents repeats.

I've tried soap and it worked for a while but I find better relief with a spoon of wet mustard. Some say getting out of bed to get the mustard is what does it but I believe it is the mustard itself. Has always worked so far. Luckily, I like mustard.

I get severe cramps as well - anywhere from cramps in my ankle which turn my foot where I can't walk on it flat to inner thigh cramps -- I swear by mustard and pickle juice. One or the other does the trick fairly quickly but on occasion I've had to use both.

In 1966 I contracted leg cramps and RLS from being stationed at Camp Lejune N.C.. The water issue is currently being reviewed for compensation. For many years after including my tour in Vietnam I suffered with this condition. After the service, my wife suffered from my kicking while sleeping until she retreated into the spare bedroom. After many different doctors and visits without success one doctor suggested Carbidopa/Levodopa 100 MG tab........OMG ! it worked. Taken 2 hours before bedtime with a follow up at 1 hour before and no more cramps or jumping.

25 years suffering and the solution was only a 10 minute doctors visit and a prescription. Please suggest this med. at least try it out is just may work for them.

You may not be taking enough magnesium.

A bar of soap in my bed located close to the cramping spots of the legs or feet (Dove in my case) has relieved me of the same problem

My doctor prescribed a gin and tonic at night before bedtime for my leg cramps and nervous hand syndrome. I had been getting up almost every night and walking the cramps off. I had tried the soap in the bed and mustard, neither of which helped.

After starting the tonic before bedtime, I have gotten up only 4 times in the past 12-15 months.

Leg cramps are sometimes a side effect of statins and a sign that severe damage is occurring to the muscles, not to mention what is happening to the kidneys.

I suffer with terrible leg cramps. I can be sitting on the couch and then stand up and I can get cramps very severe. The pain can be up high in the thigh muscle or it can be throughout my whole leg. I suffer with a condition called venous insufficiency. The pain can be more associated with poor circulation then just muscle cramps.

I carry plain mustard that is used on hotdogs and hamburgers in a small container... I also carry with me at all times, a plastic spoon. When I get the severe leg pain throughout my whole leg, I take a spoonful of mustard and swallow it quickly. Within minutes my pain is gone... The muscle cramps release and I heave a big sigh of relief. Sometimes while in bed, my left foot will go into spasm too. I grab mustard that I keep in a small container by my bed and a plastic spoon, and swallow a good tablespoon. Wow..the pain is gone very fast.

I am very grateful for the People's Pharmacy for telling me about mustard... It works very fast. The leg soap has not worked as well as the mustard but I do keep the soap under the bottom sheet as well.

Tonic water with quinine in it makes leg cramps a think of the past. One glass a day and cramps are gone for good.

In my twenties I used Quinine prescribed by a doctor for night cramps in my legs, only for a few days. It worked.

I have been rubbing a painful muscle on my leg with a bar of soap and it seems to work. People laugh at me, but when I shower and wash it off, the cramps come back, then go away again when I put it on. So if it's all in my head, I don't care. The leg has threatened to go out from under me a couple of times, then that stops with the soap, so I'm a believer.

For several years, I would suffer upper leg cramps (front, back, and above inside knee) in both legs at the same time. Even though I ate plenty of bananas, and drank gatorade and similar drinks, I would get these cramps. The cramps usually started after a long bicycle ride after I had begun to relax. I might be riding in a vehicle, eating in a restaurant, watching TV and sometimes asleep in the middle of the night. I tried everything but nothing worked. I just had to suffer through the pain. My doctor couldn't help.

Then, one day, someone suggested that Pedialyte would help. So I tried it. WOW. For me, Pedialyte would stop the cramp within seconds if I drank about 6 ounces or more. Then I discovered powdered Pedialyte in small packets. Now when I go on long bike rides, I take several packets of Pedialyte with me in my bike bag and just add a pack when I refill my water bottle.

I have been using Pedialyte now for about 3 years and have had only a few cramps. Now if I get a cramp, I only have to suffer pain for only the time it takes me to get to the refrigerator. I will not be without it in the future when I'm going for a bike ride.

A fellow bike rider told me that she was having cramping problems while and after riding. She used the Pedialyte and now will not be without it either.

I hope this solution can help others because cramps in three muscle groups in both legs at the same time can make a grown man cry.

My dad is 96 and still lives by the home remedies of his childhood. He has cramps and says it is because the body needs water. He drinks a 20 ounce bottle of water and waits for a few minutes. His problem is solved.

Another thing that causes leg cramps is low potassium. My husband's cramps went away as soon as he started 99mg of potassium a day. (But don't do it if you're on blood pressure meds.)

Tonic water containing quinine eliminates prevents the leg cramps I used to get during the night. I can get this at any supermarket. I have taken to consuming approx. 8 ounces every day or two. Perhaps less would do.

I have leg cramps and some edema, horse chestnut extract helps a great deal. don't have cramps at night and less need for support hose.

Don't let your feet get cold! As soon as my toes start getting cold, I put on a pair of socks - wear them to bed. I had really bad cramps before trying that, haven't had any since keeping my feet warm. It's a lot easier than following the other directions & you don't have to taste anything unpleasant.

My wife now gets relief from night time leg cramps by mixing orange juice with tonic water before turning in. The British created the gin and tonic cocktail in India by adding gin to kill the bitter taste of quinine but the OJ works just as well if you don't desire any alcohol.

First I would like to say the soap in the bed has worked for both my husband and me, for years. Next, I like to repeat the day that both of my hands cramped so that I couldn't move them. Thought of the soap, got a bar and rubbed it in my hands. No more cramps, ever. Next, after reading of one method of getting rid of warts, I tried it on a wart on my dog (inside of banana skin) and in less than a week, all dried up.

I suffer with leg cramps often and my fingers cramp easily when reading. When I first heard of yellow mustard for the cramping I tried it. The mustard worked well but I couldn't stand the taste of the yellow mustard so tried the spicy brown variety and found that it worked equally as well so that's what I use when cramping occurs.

Tonic water does the trick for me. Usually a half a glass will take away the cramps. I keep a 6 pack on hand at all times.

My wife was suffering from severe legs cramps one night and I remembered reading about a college coach who gave his athletes pickle juice. She took one drink and the results were amazing. We now make sure there are always pickles in the fridge. If somebody would have told me this I would have been skeptical, but I know first hand that it works.

I have also used the bar of soap successfully for cramps at night anywhere on the back of my legs or my feet. But another thing that I found on People's Pharmacy was GLYCERIN! Besides helping sore muscles and joint pain, it also kept me from getting leg cramps at night if I rubbed it on before going to bed. If I forgot and finally rubbed it on when I developed a cramp, it worked within minutes. If I need instant relief from a cramp, someone told me to bite my lip firmly, and I'll be darned if it didn't work instantly!

Having had intermittent foot and toe cramps most of my life, I came across a brilliantly effective compound published by an MD whose life’s work is devoted to natural, non-toxic remedies. The compound has to be made up by a compounding pharmacy (which requires a physician’s prescription) so I told my doctor I wanted to try it out and asked him to make out the prescription for me. The prescription should read: “DMSO - Mg-CL2 - EMU 20 - 20 - 3%" (The active ingredients are a mix of DMSO, Magnesium Chloride and Emu Oil that a compounding pharmacy put into a neutral moisturizing lotion). Whenever I get cramp I apply the lotion on it and it works immediately. V.L.

Calcium, magnesium and boron, along with cod liver oil before bedtime really hit the spot. Then, take an Epsom salt bath and soak. It's hard to believe that quinine will actually 'heal' the problem.

Hello Katie
I could not have described it better. I can't tell you how many times I almost went to the hospital with pain so severe! My feet hurt most of the time, I think I recently developed Mortons Neuroma in my left foot. After my last surgery I had to negotiate my pain management.... I asked for either pain meds or time off.... she didn't want to give ether one. On top of all this I suffer with severe carpel tunnel in both hands and both elbows. I'm in pain all the time.

thanks for listening, Joe

Hi Joe
I am so sorry to hear that you are in constant pain. The carpal tunnel in your hands and elbows should be easily remedied by using special braces that relieve the pressure. Try taking mustard for your pain... it might help.

I don't recommend pain meds. You can't stay on those forever and you don't want to get addicted to them. There are many alternative remedies you can try. Curcumin in tablet form is an anti-inflammatory. That might help. I get muscle cramps from sitting too long on the couch. I also have a touch of osteoarthritis and I think that is causing some of my joint pain. I know how hard it is to live with constant pain. The chiropractor has helped me a lot over the years with my sciatic nerve pain in my back. Give that a try.

Since I have bad varicose veins, my circulation in my legs is very poor. My ankles and feet swell up all the time. I have bought a circulation booster. You put your feet on the special pads and then turn on the current... It gives your legs a circulation boost. I usually keep it at level 23... it has levels up to 99. This device might help you too.

I sincerely hope you receive relief from your pain... You can't go through life in constant pain. Time usually heals some of our aches and pains. Be patient and maybe some issues will resolve themselves.

after taken 10-40 amploline benzpline for blood pressure my heart rate went up after 4 days on it my doctor took me off. now I get these jerks some trembling in my legs at night. could this be from the medication?

Apparently not. I have been reading the PP for a long time and the general opinion is that it is the NATURAL JUNIPER in the gin that is responsible. Gin with artificial juniper flavoring does not appear to provide the same effect. Since rum is not made with juniper it would seem you are out of luck.

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