Q. I have suffered from painful cramps in my toes and feet most of my life. I have spent hours walking around the house trying to relieve them. I have worried about the day when I am an octogenarian and might not be able to get up and walk around.

By accident, I discovered effective relief. In my nightstand was a tube of Capsagesic-HP, which my husband used for neuropathic (nerve) pain. Out of desperation in the middle of the night, I rubbed some on my foot. My cramps disappeared instantly and did not return, affording me a peaceful night’s rest. I have used it many times since and always get great relief.

A. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in Capsagesic-HP and many other topical pain medicines (Capsin, Zostrix, etc) is the hot stuff in hot peppers. It is used to alleviate pain from nerve damage, such as post-shingles pain. It may also be helpful for arthritis. Your report is the first we have heard of it being used for nighttime foot cramps.

We have collected a wide variety of other remedies for leg and foot cramps in our Guide to Leg Pain. They range from home remedies and special stretches to supplements such as calcium, magnesium, vitamin B, or food sources of potassium.

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  1. HSC III

    I used Capzasin on my Feet, Knees and Wrist for arthritis. Danger! It was one of the worst pains I ever experienced. I’ve had three surgeries on my knees (2-Fully Evasive/1-Scope) teeth extractions, root canal, and numerous tooth aches. The pain from the capzasin application especially on my feet was excruciating or worse than the above. Watch Out! Any recommendations for relieving osteoarthritis are welcomed. Thanks.

  2. Mark C.

    For years at night, I was awakened with leg cramps.
    At first, I used pills with Quinine, and they worked just fine, but the Gov’t forbid them.
    By accident, I tried this little exercise, just before getting in bed, and when I got up at night. Put one leg out behind you, so your weight in on the toe, and stretch downward until you feel the pull on your calf muscle. Switch positions and stretch the other calf. I started this exercise 6 months ago and have not had a cramp since.

  3. LES

    I awaken with pain and paralysis that isn’t always relieved with standing or walking. Indeed, walking isn’t always possible. It’s scary! My leg cramps involve only tendons in the front of my calves which become raised and pulsate. Is this the kind of cramp that’s being discussed here?

  4. John C.

    I suffered from leg cramps for years, they always came in the middle of the night. I found that if you stand in your bare feet on the bath-room tile for a minute they would disappear instantly.

  5. a.s.

    I like it . . . and most forms and carriers of capsicum.

  6. michael s.

    I get horribly painful cramps in my legs. can Capsagesic-HP be over the counter?

  7. a.s.

    also, yellow mustard has turmeric, and as a quick relief, I’ve been known to eat a tablespoon of it direct. I didn’t say it’s enjoyable, just effective as first aid!

  8. PW

    I suffered from severe leg cramps for years.When I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and started wearing a cpap and was getting the oxygen I needed the cramps stopped.

  9. rh

    Tonic water, also helps while having cramp, drink some. Quinine has been used forever but you have to have a prescription to get pills now.

  10. beau10

    Sometime ago I began having severe leg cramps that culminated in such excruciating pain that I actually awakened screaming (It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit). I have never experienced such prolonged intense pain.
    I read everything I could, eliminated what seemed not to apply and discovered I was likely severely deficient in potassium.
    I read that someone had used No-Salt, a potassium chloride diet replacement of regular sodium and decided to try (I was desperate and would have tried anything that could not bite me first).
    I read the label which stated 1/4 tsp = about 20% RDA, ergo down the hatch for one teaspoon in a day. Eureka!! No leg cramps since. For me this is better than stuffing myself with steamship-loads of bananas (I still eat one-a-day) or other food sources that do not provide the amount I appear to need.
    I now sprinkle No-Salt on anything that can be “salted”.
    No leg cramps since.

  11. RH

    I find that I can alleviate cramps a head of time by eating foods rich in Potassium..ex: sweet potatoes and bananas. I am prone to having leg and feet cramps if I don’t eat potassium rich foods at least three times a week.

  12. a.s.

    I’ve used Capzasin lotion w/ applicator top for years for all sorts of aches & pains. I found that the cream/ointment wouldn’t wash off my hands for days, & the next time I rubbed my eye . . .

  13. cpmt

    ALSO iron deficiency, iron supplements can help in some people.

  14. MKH

    I too have suffered from leg, foot, and even diaphragm cramps and spasms as long as I can remember, and I am 62 now. Doctors have found no reason for this. Supplements of calcium, magnesium, etc. did nothing to stop them. I even slept with the soap bar under my sheet.
    I have two remedies that help me control the extremely painful muscle spasms: Hyland’s Leg Cramp with Quinine homeopathic pills, and Capzasin. I am never without either of these products. Capzasin is especially handy in the roll-on applicator.
    They work, and I am thankful. I have had to stop the car and get out to walk around because my feet were cramping so badly I couldn’t control the pedals!

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