Q. I have had horrendous leg cramps at night. My pain threshold is high, but these had me moaning, unable to find a position without having some other muscle cramp.

Quinine tablets usually gave relief within 10 minutes. However, on one particularly bad night, with no relief coming, I took a second tablet within 30 minutes of the first. When I awoke in the morning, I was totally deaf–no clock chimes, no dog collar jingling–nada.

At first, it was actually a nice experience–my own world. But that wore off when I couldn’t hear the phone ring or listen to the radio.

By mid-to-late afternoon, I had my hearing back, but I will not take quinine again. To prevent cramps, I drink water with half a lemon squeezed into it just before bed; sometimes I take the hottest shower I can stand; and occasionally I use a liniment like Heat or Icy Hot. Walking the cramp out still seems to be the best.

A. You experienced “cinchonism,” or quinine toxicity. In addition to temporary deafness, symptoms may include headache, ringing in the ears, nausea, dizziness, rash and confusion. The FDA banned quinine for treating leg cramps because it can cause life-threatening blood abnormalities.

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  1. bt

    I had a prescription for quinine pills several years ago for leg cramps and had no side effects from the pills. I again began having leg cramps after having back surgery for spinal stenosis and began drinking about 1/4 cup of tonic water (no gin) before bedtime about three months ago. No more leg cramps and no side effects so far. Thank goodness for tonic water.

  2. bernard l.

    Leg Cramps… long distance bicycle riders usually take Tums E.X. 750 to relieve leg cramps from those 35 mile rides… this along with 1/2 glass of Tonic Water seems to work for my night leg cramps…

  3. jes

    Leg cramps are a thing of the past for me A bar of soap under the bottom sheet, sounds weird– but all my friends swear by it I have not had a jump out of the bed cramp in over a year.

  4. bt

    I buy a bottle of quinine water to keep on hand and only take a few swallows. It works for those leg cramps and has not affected my hearing. Does anyone else have any experience using quinine water and, if so, any bad side effects?

  5. MK Roberts DC

    Tonic water as associated with Gin and Tonic will also relive Leg cramps because it too has Quinine, that was how the British got their people who lived in countries with malaria to take their Quinine on a daily basis.
    The real problem is generally a blood calcium deficiency that can be remedied by daily supplement of 1000 mg of calcium citrate (health food store), much safer than the Quinine prescription.

  6. rf

    yellow mustard has turmeric… that will stop leg cramps in about 1/2 hour. I used to take quinine over the counter, but can’t anymore..

  7. ebm

    I flex my foot as soon as I feel a cramp coming on and really stretch the calf. Have not
    had to go through a bad cramp since.

  8. MD

    Keeping a heating pad handy and applying it as soon as the cramp begins helps a lot and quite quickly.

  9. cpmt

    try yellow mustard. 1 or two tsp.

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