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Get Some Sleep: Avoid frequent leg cramping
Leg cramps usually involve sudden, intense pain, unlike RLS, which is usually a steady, uncomfortable feeling that lasts for hours.
August 2nd, 2011
12:19 PM ET

Get Some Sleep: Avoid frequent leg cramping

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs regularly on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

It is frustrating, to both patients and doctors, that modern medical science often lacks understanding of or treatment for common, everyday ailments.

One such ailment, leg cramps, is very common and yet poorly understood. It often plagues people at night, and therefore “sleep-related leg cramps” is recognized as a bona fide sleep disorder by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.

Most people have had a “charley horse” and know that leg cramps can be quite painful. Leg cramps result from the sudden, intense and involuntary contraction of a muscle or muscle group. They usually occur in the calf muscle or the small muscles of the feet.

If this happens once a year, few people think of this as a medical condition, but there are people who have leg cramps every night, sometimes several times a night. The cramps can prevent people from falling asleep or can awaken them many times during the night, and therefore leg cramps can lead to chronic sleep deprivation.

The painful sensation is usually relieved by strenuous stretching of the affected muscle. Often, people jump out of bed in their attempt to stop the searing pain. Both the prevalence and frequency increase as people age. There is research showing that approximately one-third of all people over the age of 60 and one-half of those over the age of 80 reported having sleep-related leg cramps once in the previous two months. Six percent of adults over the age of 60 have reported having leg cramps that disturb them every night.

Leg cramps are sometimes confused with restless legs syndrome (now known as Willis-Ekbom disease), but the two disorders are quite different, although patients can have both problems.

RLS is not commonly described as a sudden, intense pain. Also, people who suffer from RLS usually have a steady, uncomfortable feeling in the legs that lasts for hours, and this maddening feeling is only temporarily relieved for a few minutes while they move or rub their legs.

There are some medical conditions that seem to predispose people to leg cramps such as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease and neuromuscular disorders. Medications such as oral contraceptives have been associated with leg cramps. They occur in approximately 40% of pregnant women and usually resolve after birth.

If leg cramping is frequent and intense, people should not assume that they have benign, idiopathic (of unknown cause) leg cramps. It is advised to consult a physician in order to differentiate leg cramps from more serious medical conditions such as akathisia, myelopathy, peripheral neuropathy and disorders of calcium imbalance.

There are numerous theories about the cause of leg cramps but little evidence supporting the veracity of any given theory. One common notion is that they result from dehydration, but the little research done does not support this.

Also common is the idea that there is a relative electrolyte imbalance. Magnesium and potassium are popular culprits. Again, there is little research on this. One study attempted to treat leg cramps in a group of pregnant women and found that magnesium was no better than a placebo.

The same is true for potassium deficiency; there is no research showing that low potassium causes leg cramps or that taking extra potassium prevents them. That said, I have patients who swear that a banana before bed takes care of the leg cramping problem. I also know people who report that sitting in a bath of Epsom salts right before bed helps ward off  nocturnal leg cramps.

I have patients who think that the leg cramps come upon them only when they exercise strenuously, and then there are those who associate the cramps with lack of exercise. The best theory is the “squatting hypothesis,” which speculates that leg cramping is associated with the modern habit of sitting on chairs and on the toilet instead of squatting as our forebears would have done.

I believe that is just another way of saying that leg cramps could be caused by a lack of strengthening and stretching of the calf and feet muscles.

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Filed under: Pain • Sleep

soundoff (264 Responses)
  1. cm

    Sad

    August 2, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Angelique

    I have been plagued with leg cramps since my twenties. I have had two children. The leg cramps did not occur more or less frequently while I was pregnant. It occurs at least three times a week. I am very active, healthy 34 year old, and stretch my legs constantly. I have never been dehydrated and am a holistic medicinal/viatamin taker.

    I AM THE EXACT CONTRADICTION TO THESE THEORIES> Try again.

    I still have the leg cramps described above....not RLS.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ks

      That is why they are theories. Calm down.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Wow. They were theories, lady. Chill the heck out.

      Additionally, not everyone falls into every category. The -odds- are that some will be, and statistically, they have some slight evidence on some of these, but studies are never supposed to be taken as utter and absolute Proof.

      Take a pill. Here's to hoping your kids aren't as self absorbed as you are. Not everything is about you, lady.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      I too suffered from feet cramps while sleeping. I recently re-married and my new wife told me to just wear socks to bed. She was right. I am cured. Haven't had a cramp yet unless I forget to wear the socks....Apparently it has to do with circulation and keeping my feet warm.

      Try it.....

      August 2, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • dnfromge

      @ Rick – I found the same solution... wear socks to bed! For me it is all about keeping my feet warm so I only wear socks in winter and generally have no cramps!

      August 2, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • mahdeealoo

      Try pro agri 9. My daughter, same as you, tried it and has 100% relief.

      August 2, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
    • Norm

      I have had these intense behind the knee, ankle and foot area pains for some time now. It appears different things are working for different people. What I started doing is takig 2 99mg of potassium at night along with a one a day vitamin and it has knocked most of it out.

      August 2, 2011 at 18:36 | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      This will absolutely work..

      If you get cramps in your lower legs, ankle to calf.. this WILL help. I get these cramps and can't sleep when I do. I'm am athelete and run 5k every day... I have no idea why I get the cramps, but this method works. Try it.

      Tie a long thickish sock around your leg, just slightly above the ankle. An inch or two above the ankle..... Tie it tight, but obviously not tight enough to cut off blood flow.... If the sock is very long, wrap it around twice and tie it..

      No more cramps and you'll be able to fall asleep...

      August 2, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse |
    • georg

      I to have had over 50 years of leg craps UNTIL I tried 'witch hazel'
      Really, get some witch hazel, it is like alcohol but has a different smell. Put some in a small spray bottle and spray it on the muscle that is giving the problem. Rub it in for a few seconds. Craps stop.

      August 2, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
    • georg

      Get witch hazel. Its like rubbing alcohol but smells different. Put some in a spray bottle, spray on muscle when it acts up, rub in a little. Done. No internal medicine, no prescription, but will probably be taken off the shelf when this gets out.

      August 2, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
    • wiflash

      Angelique – drink milk – its PMS – didn't you see those California ads?

      August 2, 2011 at 22:59 | Report abuse |
    • lsb

      Dr. Shives, you could have done better. That was a say nothing article. In a sentence you could have said what took a page to read. "People get leg cramps and no one knows why". Throw out a few unproven theories and publish. As an aside, quinine works quite well for me. There seem to be a lot of other remidies in the comments I might just try.

      August 2, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse |
    • Jackie

      Sane here.....healthy, strong, proper diet. The sudden and intense pain has brought me to near tears out of a dead sleep. This has also caused extreme fatigue, at times, during the day. I've. narrowed it down to a recent diagnosis of mildly high blood pressure and a prescription received fir such called LISINOPRIL. It's only 10mgs daily but it has a 'water pill' component & that has inadvertently dehydrated me as well as depleted my potassium. I've been boosting my potassium/ magnesiumssupplement and drinking more water. At this point, I'm ready to stop LISINOPRIL all together

      April 25, 2015 at 02:48 | Report abuse |
    • Raj

      Hi Angelique,

      My wife used to have the same problem but severe,She used to have Leg cramps every night at least twice and woke up every night crying with pain.We were very disturbed with that for a couple of years.Then I came across an article where it was mentioned that it happens due to magnesium deficiency.I just bought an over the counter magnesium supplement without any hope.After taking that supplement for 15-20 days regularly at night with Dinner,No more Leg cramps.It is such relief now to see her sleeping soundly next to me.Supplement name was "Magnesium 375".Hope it helps and you can sleep peacefully.

      October 22, 2017 at 19:14 | Report abuse |
  3. Dali

    A doctor in Europe told my grandma to take calcium supplements when she complained about leg cramps. She never had leg cramps again. I wonder if there is any research about that. It sure worked in this particular case and the doc must have known it from somewhere.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • killallthewhiteman

      I was always told that those cramps could be avoided by drinking milk. I always thought it was an old wives tale but maybe there is some truth to it.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
    • cpm1946

      Calcium with magnesium works for me. I have to take more if I have wine or any kind of alcohol or too much caffeine.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • Shrinking Violet

      I agree. Calcium supplements completely eliminate the dreaded charley horse for me. Unless I neglect to take them, but it's a pretty good incentive to remember.

      August 2, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse |
    • pregnant

      i get leg cramps only during pregnancy – i'm pregnant now with my 4th, but haven't had yet (15 weeks).
      Dr. told me its calcium, and when it happens i drink more milk the next day and it helps.

      August 2, 2011 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
    • Dave Bilak

      I take 1800mg of calcium a day and still get the cramps. We are all unique and no two exactly the same.

      August 2, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
  4. SRW

    I can't believe I read all the way to the end of an article that basically says: "Leg cramps, we don't know why you get them."

    I'd like to know where to send my resume. I can provide various instances of babbling to waste print space.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LegcrampsToo

      My thoughts exactly. What a waste of time this article was. AND by the way, leg cramps run in my family from my grandmother, aunt, mom and now me. The ONLY thing that works for us are: lots of water to stay dehydrated, magnesium and potassium supplements and the (now rare) use of Hylands leg cramp pills when they do occur. I don't care what the "studies" say, after years of pain, these work.

      August 2, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • NottinghamFred

      You convinced me! You're qualified!

      August 2, 2011 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • SweetsWars

      If potassium and calcium don't work, try tonic water. I drink an occasional glass of diet tonic water – your can drink regular too, the quinine seems to help. There are some studies that show this has down sides, but I've decided the pain relief is well worth the risks.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • You can send to FOX News

      ... or maybe try contacting Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck 😉

      August 2, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
    • JamisT

      I agree about the tonic water – works even better with a little gin.

      Seriously, my doctor told me she used to prescribe an anti-malaria drug with quinine for her patients with leg cramps, but it's been taken off the market so now she just tells them to drink tonic water instead. I've tried it and had success. I'm just fortunate that I actually like the taste of tonic water!

      August 2, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse |
  5. rb2d2

    I've had occasional leg cramps all my adult life, at one time quite frequently (a space of a few weeks) but don't have a clue why they were occurring frequently during that time. However, at one point later on I started drinking a glass of wine every night before bed time, for health reasons, and I got sever leg cramps every single night. I quit drinking the wine and the cramps stopped.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dean

      I had leg camps about 3 times in 2 months that actually were so bad I had to limp for about 4-5 days. I found out that on each occasion I had yogurt the night before bed. I have not had yogurt since I put 2 and 2 together and also have not had a problem. Weird how different things trigger something so painful.

      August 2, 2011 at 21:31 | Report abuse |
  6. Gary

    I am a 61 year old male and i suffered with god awful leg cramps several nights a week. I found some articles that said that the cramps could be a side effect of lactose intolerance. I always loved dairy three years ago I gave up pasturized milk and started drinking raw unpastuerized milk I buy from a local farmer. I have been drinking raw milk and using it for ice cream coffee etc. I drink about a gallon a week. a couple things have happened first of all I have not had a single leg cramp for three years. Also i had high cholestrol but it is now normal without medication. I wont contribute the normal cholestrol to just milk as I have also changed my diet over the last three years. I don't eat anything processed, 95% of my diet is plant based and if I eat meat it has to be grass fed or free range and clean. Folks I am of the opinion that all these ailments like leg cramps are a result of the garbage that the food industry pawns off on us as food. Anything you buy in a store that has more than 3 or 4 ingredients on the label is not food, it is a synthetic blend of chemicals, perservatives, food colorings, artificial sweetners etc. if you want to heal yourself, you just need three things, good sleep ,real food and a little exercise.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Erin

      This is illogical. Raw, unpasteurized milk has just as much lactose as pasteurized milk; it's not like the rapid heating and cooling of milk to kill bacteria is going to CREATE the sugar lactose in milk. And pasteurization should not be denigrated as something that makes our food supply any less natural. Pasteurization prevents salmonellosis and listeriosis, both of which can be extremely dangerous, especially to the young and pregnant women, two groups for whom milk consumption is important.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      Gary, what you say makes a lot of sense. I think it is probably correct. I am 65 now and have started in the last 3 to 4 years to have muscle spasms in other areas of the body–as well as legs. The diaphragm seems to be the main one, although it has happened in the back, belly, thigh, and on side of lower leg. These are totally excruciating–horribly pain–which will last several minutes. Now, I know this is not normal, certainly. But all bloodwork I've had done has come back fine. So, it is something else–and i have to think it could be what I am eating. The thing is, it will go away for a few weeks, then come back for several where I will have anywhere from one to several episodes a week. Something definitely is amiss, but my doctor has no clue as to what.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
  7. matt

    screaming pain for 1 minute. Asleep in 2.

    August 2, 2011 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Beth

    I'm awakened by calf cramps weekly and have been since my early teens. I also have very tight calf muscles that hurt when they are stretched and massaged. I can still walk and run okay. I just wake up yelling with these cramps. I've tried everything, including knee surgeries (doctors assured me that would help because of issues with my knees), all to no avail. I wish someone had an answer.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SweetsWars

      If you've tried potassium and calcium supplements, try tonic water. The quinine helps, I drink 2-3 glasses a week.

      August 2, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse |
  9. sandy

    I have suffered from horrid leg cramps since I was a child. My mother always said it was just "growing pains". I'm 58 so I guess I must still be growing! Nothing gets rid of the pain. For over 50 years I have tried everything anyone has suggested. I've taken pills but I have tons of allergies so nothing seems to work for me. Doctors are baffled. Test results yield no news. Walking, running – just makes it worse. If a storm is coming in then the pains get worse and I feel like a human barometer. I'm allergic to vitamin C (no, I'm not kidding. I get hives and welts from oranges, apples, lettuce, parsley, etc) so ascorbic acid's not going to help. Bananas make the legs worse. I eat organic foods, make my own meals, use honey from my dad's bee hives, no liquor. I'm a frigging girl scout! I've pretty much given up being free from this mess.

    Sooo, anyone have any suggestions?

    August 2, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nancy P

      I have long suffered with severe leg cramps. I used to be able to get a prescription for quinine which worked wonderfully well but is no longer available. Hylands leg cramp homeopathic tablets help as they contain some quinine but for me what works best is to wrap a heating pad around the leg. The heat relaxes the muscle and stops the cramping.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Leon

      I have always had severe cramps all my life, sometimes I have had them in both hams or both calf. Several times I had them all at the same time. A few years ago a friend recommend quinine, either in tonic water (no gin please) or in pill form. My cramps are now a thing of the past unless I forget my quinine.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • kgreen

      Hi Sandi...so frustrating and so painful. Even though they tell you in the article that it does not work, I did some research on line when my doctor was as helpful as this article, and found that a daily supplement of Magnesium and Calcium works extremely well for me. I still get some cramps in my feet once or twice a week instead of nightly, but the severity is greatly reduced, and I can usually walk it off in under a minute if I've taken my supplement. If I forget to take them, then it sometimes takes me almost 1 hour to get the muscles to finally release.

      August 2, 2011 at 14:43 | Report abuse |
    • Seraphim0

      Kgreen- They didn't say they do NOT work. It said that there is little evidence from studies to support the theories. Which can mean numerous things- lack of comprehensive studies, lack of enough supporting evidence in a study, etc, etc. This is just like trying to say that a single study 'proves' a theory.

      When I think of how little the general community understands of basic scientific terminology... *sigh*

      August 2, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
    • MOOSE

      A BANANA A DAY AND DRINK TWO GLASSES OF WATER AFTER DINNER BEFORE BEDTIME. SUFFERED FROM LEG CRAMPS FOR SEVERAL YEARS DOCTORS WERE NO HELP. THIS HAS WORKED FOR ME. GOOD LUCK.

      August 2, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse |
    • Kathleen

      Sandy,

      This potential "cure" for leg/ankle/foot cramps may sound rather ridiculous but, trust me, it's been working for me 100% of the time so far!

      I suddenly began experiencing absolutely debilitating lower leg/ankle/foot cramps, day and night, whenever I laid down to rest and/or to watch TV. Then, just as my legs and feet would fully relax, BAM (!!!), the intense cramping would begin!

      Now, whenever I am in bed, I always keep my feet and lower legs elevated. I also have a heated water bed, so my feet and legs usually feel comfortably warm (I keep the temperature set at about 96-degrees). So, for all intents and purposes, I see no reason for this cramping to happen in the first place. Yet, it does ... and ALWAYS when I'm in a prone position!

      Then, one night when I was experiencing particularly severe and frequent cramping and getting no sleep whatsoever, for some unknown reason (probably sheer desperation!) I grabbed a pair of loose-fitting, calf-length fleece socks, pulled them on, and limped my way back into bed. And this is where my story takes an unexpected "believe it or not" twist because, believe it or not, I slept soundly for the rest of the night without a single awakening by further cramping! Say, what?!?!?!

      Naturally, I spent the next couple of weeks "experimenting" with the socks on/socks off phenomenon I had so blindly stumbled onto. And in every case the results remained the same, i.e., socks on = no cramping ... Socks off = return to cramping. Those results, of course, then sent me to research the internet for other people who may have also accidentally stumbled onto this "cure", which led me here!

      I did see one or two posts (so far) who suggested the method of simply wearing loose-fitting socks to bed ... then quite a few who said to place soap shavings either between the sheets or inside the socks. But, for me, I've only had to wear the socks in bed (or wherever I lay down) in order to eliminate the cramping altogether,

      If you try this suggestion, please let me/us know the results. Good luck!

      -Kathleen-

      October 21, 2017 at 10:34 | Report abuse |
    • dolores plamondon

      I have had leg cramps all my life- severe is an under statement ! DRs have run tests–long " needles in legs ans up pack, an all night stay in Hosp, with electrodes on my head- Only thing they said was they found " something "in "T-10 " but never went any further ! used Quinine, all kinds of muscle spasms, and jus had bad reaction to all but " parafon- forte " an OLD Med. the spasms go down the leg and back up the spine , and the toes curl upward. It moves from one leg to the other ,mostly in left leg (even way before I had a DVT in that leg .) It also makes the leg " jump up and slams the foot back down on the ground " DRs say ( and have been to several, Neuro. and all ) It's NOT RESTLESS LEG, BUT SOMETHING WORSE- BUT WE DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS " I AM NOW ON "ROPINEROL ( REQUIP) Q 6 HRS. AND OXYCODONE 10-325 mg. REQUIUP HAS BEEN A LIFE SAVER-IF DOSE IS LATE- I PAY HELL FOR IT. my BACK IS " BONEON BONE"- HAVE A PACEMAKER AND STINT IN HEART. TOTAL TEAR OF RIGHT ROTATOR CUFF IN rt. SHOULDER, LEFT KNEE TOTALY GONE- AND IN THE LAST 4 WKS.- THE BI-CEP MUSCLE TORE LOOSE- DRS SAID IT WAS FROM SEVERE ARTHRITIS ! Am now in wheelchair- Well- call it old Nurses " disease" am 83 yrs old, and have pulled and lifted patients for over 30 yrs !!! No surgeon will touch me because of -again " severe " Fibromyalga said they could not give me enough pain meds, and it would kill me Wish all of you good luck- keep looking for what works!! Now if I could get enough "Home Health Care "( I am NOT ), I might be able to make the last 3 yrs on my pacemaker !!

      January 16, 2019 at 02:25 | Report abuse |
  10. Sparrow

    I think people who have leg cramps should be at least EVALUATED for sleep apnea. A doctor should check neck size, examine airway and get a history as well as asking a sleeping partner (if applicable) if they've ever heard gasping for air, or noticed stopping breathing, or snoring. (Some people have sleep apnea where they don't snore, so that's not 100% telling!)

    I have not had a leg cramp since I got my CPAP machine. Some other guy in the waiting room had told me he was back to get a new CPAP machine because his was 20 years old, and that he gets severe leg cramps when he's not treated with CPAP and they used to stop when he was using his machine.

    I used to take magnesium, which did help. I have sudden, severe asthma. I find out that magnesium is a bronchiodialotor: http://chestjournal.chestpubs.org/content/122/2/396.full

    My worst, worst leg spasms would happen when I was on prednisone. I blamed the prednisone, BUT a recent trip helped me understand better. My mother has 9 cats, and I'm horribly allergic, so I usually end up on prednisone when I visit. Well, I convinced (begged) my parents to buy an air cleaner, and so that at least delays my use of prednisone. Well... I had HORRIBLE leg cramps the one evening (while awake). It was a cramp into my thigh and foot, too. I usually have cramps in the front of my lower leg, near my ankle, too.

    Well, I hadn't YET taken ANY prednisone. So, I put it together: It wasn't necessarily the drug so much as it was the aggravated asthma symptoms! Truly, I believe that people who have leg cramps should have electrolyte testing done to determine if supplementation is SAFE and they should also be checked for asthma or sleep apnea or something that might affect oxygen intake!

    I wonder if smokers have more leg cramps than non-smokers. I have never smoked.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Not so sure apnea is a factor

      I have severe sleep apnea and have used CPAP for about 10 years. Despite that, I still experience occasional leg cramping (maybe once every other month or so). This is the same frequency rate as it's always been for me.

      What does seem to be a factor for me is vitamin intake. I generally take vitamin supplements, and find that if I run out or go off my routine the cramps tend to happen more often.

      August 2, 2011 at 16:20 | Report abuse |
  11. JWar

    Try a(n unwrapped) bar of soap in your pillow; take a sniff if leg cramps start. Some prefer to put the soap between the bedsheets, lower in the bed. No idea why it works, but it does.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Esther

    I'm 53 yrs. old, and I've had leg cramps upon awakening several times a weeks for the last 6 yrs., ever since I had my first spinal injection of cortisone (for a herniated disc). Since then I've had 3 back surgeries ( a discectomy & 2 spinal fusions) and am left with some neuropathy. I've been taking neurontin (gabapentin) for a long time and it seems that at a certain dose it almost eliminates the leg cramps. They come back if I haven't stretched enough the day before. I don't know if neurontin would work for people whose cramps aren't caused by neuropathy, but it might be worth asking.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sith Empire

      About 10 years ago I had cortisone shots in the elbow. Within a week my whole body was cramping, and then after a few days it went away. Same thing after the 2nd and 3rd shots, each time more severe. After that I chose elbow surgery.

      August 2, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • dolores plamondon

      Esther ( My Moms name !) I also tried Neuronton–IT GAVE ME ALL OVER BODY SPASMS AND HORRIBLE DREAMS !!Glad if it works for you !!

      January 16, 2019 at 02:31 | Report abuse |
  13. Ha Det Godt

    For 15 years I had leg cramps at night. I decided it was from coolness and started wearing heavy double layer cotton or wool socks. The cramps stopped. I am 73 now.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Howard

    I have occasionally been plagued with severe leg cramps. I've discovered, for me at least, the answer is to spend a few minutes BEFORE i go to bed doing the very muscle stretching that many rely on to relieve the cramps when they occur. This consists of bracing myself against a wall or counter and leaning forward while keep both feet flat on the floor. I lean forward to the point the muscles on the backs of my calves ache for about 10 seconds, release, and repeat about four more times.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. mj soule

    I heard about the soap, and I have had a bar of soap in my bed between the sheetsfor over 1 year and no longer get the cramps. I have since stayed in hotels and got a cramp several times so I put soap in the sheets there and it worked for the rest of my stay.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EDDIE

      I have done this also and it works great ,, except 1 area at the ankle ,, still get them there ,, does anyone have a cure for ankle cramps ???

      May 14, 2018 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
  16. Finn

    I've had nocturnal foot and leg cramps for decades, and they became so severe that I had them for hours, nearly every night. They'd start during the evening (and let me tell you, TV loses all its vegetative appeal when you have to watch it standing to forestall more cramps) and last well into the night, often preventing me from falling asleep or waking me up. My workup indicated no electrolyte imbalance, neuromuscular disorders, dehydration, or any of the other conditions widely (and incorrectly) associated with these cramps. Stretching would only temporarily relieve the cramping–and often stretching one muscle would provoke cramping in the opposing muscle.

    Eventually, through trial and error, my doctor and I hit upon a combination that vastly decreased the frequency and severity of my cramps: 200 mg of CoQ-10 every morning, plus 500 mg of magnesium early each evening (6-7 pm). I still get occasional cramps, but now it's milder cramps maybe once or twice a month for an hour or less, rather than severe cramps almost nightly for hours on end.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. The_Mick

    I began getting very bad leg cramps, once or twice a day at its peak, last winter and into the spring, usually occurring in the late evening or in the middle of the night. I began bicycling for exercise in May and have had one very minor cramp since then. Exercise develops neural networks that finely control specific muscles and, as a scientist, my best guess would be that a lack of exercise led to a reduction in those networks so that a random neural stimulus was able to affect too many muscle cells at once. Of course, that's only a wild guess.

    August 2, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. SoulCatcher

    Whatever the direct cause is, I believe Lactic Acidosis is the ndirect cause/symtom people experience in most cases of cramps.
    i wonder if checking your blood ph level in your legs and arms.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactic_acidosis

    August 2, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. us1776

    In the 30's I suffered from these leg cramps quite a bit.

    And I noticed when I started eating less red meats that they would diminish.

    Maybe there is something added to the meats that adds to the problem.

    .

    August 2, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. boka

    Marijuana is great for leg cramps.

    August 2, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. b

    endurolytes

    August 2, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. A cure legal in some states only

    Medical marijuana is a great treatment for this, as well as chronic leg pain.

    Too bad the government, and self-serving law enforcement and prison lobbyists are still in the dark concerning the benefits of this medicine.

    August 2, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Narba

    I had a bad auto accident where I slammed on the brakes with my right foot. After months of physical therapy, I went back to kick boxing. First, I pulled a hamstring and then a tendon burst in my right calf. The tendon bursting caused my whole right calf to go black and blue. I quite karate. Afterwards, I had years of right leg muscle pain and then I started seriously walking at the park. Now I am walking and cycling and I have no more right leg cramps. I had more pronounced right leg cramps after my walking exercises started. The pain lasted almost 9 months and then the cramps were gone. One day, my daughter looked down at my legs and asked where did I get those muscles from? Everyone is different and theories make people feel important.

    August 2, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Adam

    I had leg cramps at night until I stopped drinking carbonated beverages. I now only drink water, plenty of it, and a couple cups of coffee in the morning. Been a year without Soda, Cola, Pop, etc, and a year without leg cramps!

    August 2, 2011 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jane

      When I first went away to college I got leg cramps and heart burn almost every night. I was getting such little exercise and drinking a lot of soda that was served at the dining hall. When I got more exercise and gave up the soda the leg cramps and heart burn went away.

      August 6, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
  25. Barry

    Drink water, avoid too much alcohol or sugar drinks and I found cramps went away.came back when I did the opposite.

    August 2, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. KD

    For calf or foot cramps, lift your toes as hard as you can upward toward your nose. You should feel the muscles in the front of your leg and top of your foot tighten/contract. The cramp will immediately release and pain will go away. You can try this while you don’t have a cramp so you can feel the muscles contract in the top of your foot and front of your leg over your shin.
    Your muscles work together so by contracting one muscle, the opposite muscle must release. This is why you can’t contract both your bicep and tricep at the same time.
    The only time this does not work is if you are severely dehydrated or have an underlining medical condition.

    August 2, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Finn

      It doesn't work if contracting a muscle makes it cramp, or if both the muscle and the opposing muscle are cramping at the same time.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  27. janie

    My leg cramps were induced by one of three medications, possibly all of them. Lipitor, Cyclosporine, and Ramiipril (Altace).
    Absolutely horrendous pain and not just at night, but any time of day. In the feet, the toes, the calves and usually both legs at one time. I can't even begin to describe the suffering, because just as one would ease up another would begin. The only thing that even remotely helped was really hot compresses. This went on for almost 3 years and of course I was chronically exhausted because I'd be awakened so many times during the night. I will tell you an old "old wives" remedy, told to me by my French cousin who swore that her grandmother and mother got relief : by putting a piece of soap in the bed. Not any soap, but something like Ivory. I can't say whether this really helped or I thought it helped but for a time it did work (maybe I just wanted it to work so badly). Then in October 2010 I had a serious medical emergency which put me into intensive care. I won't go into details, but when I got out of hospital I stopped all three drugs I mentioned above. Within one
    week or so I stopped having these cramps. I still occasionally get one, but it's of short duration and I guess as we age, it's to be expected. I would recommend that all of you who get cramps and take medication, check the meds for side effects and if this is one of them. try to replace it with something else.

    August 2, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. henry

    Try stretching your calves before going to bed. Stand about three feet from a wall and slowly do a "wall pushup" keeping your feet flat on the floor.

    August 2, 2011 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. MayanMan

    I get leg cramps thinking about the end of the world in 2012.

    August 2, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. WellnessDrive

    I used to get these leg cramps too. They'd wake me up in the middle of the night. Ugghh!!

    But then I started taking some Anti-Inflammatory all-natural supplements and haven't had anymore. Hence another reason why we started http://www.WellnessDrive.com

    August 2, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Terry

    If you get cramps in your lower legs, ankle to calf.. this WILL help.

    Tie a long thickish sock around your leg, just slightly above the ankle. An inch or two... Tie it tight, but obviously not tight enough to cut off blood flow.... If the sock is very long, wrap it around twice and tie it..

    No more cramps and you'll be able to fall asleep...

    August 2, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. LymphMan

    The author misses the understanding of acid-alkaline balance and its affect on the lymphatic system.In 2000 Dr. Oz wrote that the lymphatic system is ignored in medicine, he's right. When a part of the body becomes acidic the lymphatic system can constrict and create a buildup of acid waste that can spasm the nerve and surrounding tissue, especially in the calf because their are lymph nodes at top of the calf that clog often, that's why many people have tight calves.the.Even though the article mentions electrolyte imbalance and the fact that a banana or potassium may help, nothing is said about acid cellular waste building in the body creating the spasm. The reason stretching works is that it creates circulation that opens the micro-circulation of blood and lymph flow. This helps to move fresh blood into the muscle and acidic blood out of the muscle. If you are having leg cramps, really it works for most health problems, take 15 -30 days to gently clean your body. You do this by eating more fruits and vegetables, more raw vegetables, very little grain, juicing, exercising, more deep breathing and activating your lymphatic system.

    August 2, 2011 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. slupdawg

    I drink tons of booze and drink water when I'm thirsty. I put salt on any damn thing I please. I never get cramps. I guess I'm just genetically superior to all you holistic, primal-scream, California (or whatever) fruits and nuts.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Harvey

    I used to have leg cramps that would strike while stretching when waking up. I figured this may have been due to low potassium. I switched to Morton Lite Salt which is 40% potassium chloride. This fixed the problem with the cramping with the added bonus of reducing sodium in my diet.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Jimbo 733

    Just my 2 cents worth – I occasionally have severe leg cramps. I then take "Super Bio Magnesium" for a few days (one tab before bed each night) and it goes away for several weeks to several months. These tabs contain 440mg of Heavy Magnesium Oxide, 175 mg of Magnesium phosphate, 250mg of Calcium ascorbate, 50mg of Vitamin B6, 100IU of Vitamin D3, and 40mg of Manganese amino acid chelate. Whilst it appears that Magnesium does not work for everyone, it does work for me and has for years. If you take magnesium make sure it has the vitamins too in the tab as they enable the absorbtion (without the vits it just passed thru the system). I live in New Zealand so brand will be different where you are.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. georg

    guess they won't let me post about witch hazel. spray it on muscle, rub in, done.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. georg

    well 3rd try finally worked.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Jerry

    Just put a bar of soap at the foot of your bed, not Dove or Dail. You well not have any more cramped legs. Just google soap for cramps and read what other people have to say about this. My own Doctor told me to do this.

    August 2, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Pierre A. Westmount, Qc

    It happens on the average twice a year. What works for me is to get up and start walking – then it goes away. A suggestion: do some light exercises before dozing off such as curl your toes about 30 times – left and right. With legs stretched on the bed, bring toes frontward and backward about 30 times. With legs stretched on the bed, stretch each leg about 30 times. Good Luck!

    August 2, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Anne

    I, too, suffer frequently from leg cramps. Instead of jumping out of bed and trying to stretch the muscle out, I conciously make my body relax all my muscles (with a heavy focus on the cramping muscle) and this has been working pretty well for me. As a side benefit from this method, I notice my muscle is not sore the next morning like it often was when I was trying the stretching thing.

    August 2, 2011 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. camz

    Leg cramps happen because of lack of oxygen due to slow breathing (when asleep), vigorous activity (basketball), or cold weather (constriction of blood vessels which carries blood w/ oxygen) . The muscles cramp to accomodate the scarce resource of oxygen.The body uses another form of food for the cell to compensate for the lack of it which produces acid causing a painful cramp. This is a lesson I've learned in nursing school.

    August 2, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Finn

      You should get your money back.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
  42. Pam B

    For leg cramps, put a bar of soap under the sheet on your bed by your feet. If the leg/foot starts cramping, touch the soap. Don't know why this helps, but it does.

    August 2, 2011 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tom

    'The Medical profession has no answers for leg cramps but we should all go see a doctor anyway' – she really has her ducks in a row – Quack Quack

    August 2, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. BKALB@EARTHLINK.NET

    here leg cramps

    August 2, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. BKALB@EARTHLINK.NET

    here is a piece on leg cramps

    August 2, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Joe

    I had leg cramps almost every night when I was in Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island. I would almost jump out of the rack it was so painful. Then I would go back to sleep. Lots of marching and running will do that I reckon.

    August 2, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Bici

    Low blood sugar seems to be the culprit in my case. I'm a diabetic and have severe leg and/or foot cramps in the early morning hours before waking. This is also when my blood sugar is at its lowest point. I keep a bit of chocolate in the nightstand and when cramps begin I eat a little. Within minutes the cramps are gone. Then I can go back to sleep until alarm goes off. (I've tried the other remedies, including staying hydrated, quinine, potassium, magnesium, calcium, stretching before bedtime, etc.)

    August 2, 2011 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. z

    This is the cause, i dont know about the cure but balancing calcium and magnesium would seem to play a role.

    August 2, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • z

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2559140

      August 2, 2011 at 23:00 | Report abuse |
  49. Bob

    Dill pickle juice.....look it up. University of Utah study and the NFL. It has worked for me.

    August 2, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. JQA

    I always, without fail, get leg cramps after eating hard cheeses, especially parmesan. I finally made the connection, have stopped eating it, and the only time I get leg cramps now is when I have something that I ate that gives me some sort of intestinal discomfort. Because of this (the cheese also gave me intestinal problems), I have to think that for me that the leg cramps are somehow related to what is going on in my intestines.

    August 3, 2011 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
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