home
RSS
May 25th, 2011
08:11 AM ET

What causes leg cramps?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society.

Asked by Cleester of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

I am generally a very healthy woman. I frequently wake up at night with painful cramps in the thighs and the back of my legs below the knee. What causes cramps and how can I get rid of them?

Expert answer

Dear Cleester,

Cramping is painful contracture of muscles. It generally lasts for five to 10 minutes and then remits. It can awaken someone from a sound sleep.

Cramping of the legs and feet is very common. Cramping in the hands and arms is seen but less common.

This condition is seen in children or adults of any age. People who have cramping regularly should be seen by a health care provider, even though the cause is often never found after extensive evaluation.

When the cause is found, cramping can be due to prolonged sitting or leg position during sedentary activity.

Perhaps most commonly, cramps can be due to overuse of muscles that are not accustomed to exercise.

The second most common cause is dehydration. Cramps can also be caused by electrolyte and metabolic disorders. Diuretic drugs can commonly cause cramping through dehydration, sodium or potassium depletion.

Parathyroid disease causes high or low calcium levels and is associated with cramping, as is thyroid dysfunction. Parathyroid and thyroid diseases are perhaps a more common cause of cramping in the hands and arms compared with other causes of cramping.

The evaluation of cramping will commonly involve a drug history and blood studies checking sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium levels as well as thyroid function tests.

The physical examination is usually normal in a patient with routine cramping. The health care provider will also be trying to distinguish common cramping from muscle diseases that can mimic it and be an uncommon side effect of commonly prescribed drugs used to lower cholesterol (such as cholestyramine) or decrease stomach acid (cimetidine or ranitidine).

Decreased oxygenation of leg muscles due to peripheral vascular disease and the pain of diabetic neuropathy can also be mistaken for cramps. Leg cramps are best prevented with nondrug treatments.

Daily stretching and muscle strengthening can be very useful in preventing cramps. Stretching the muscle group during the cramp attack can be helpful in relieving it.

Chloroquine or the similar compound quinine (an ingredient of tonic water) has been prescribed to prevent cramping. Chloroquine has recently fallen out of favor.

Calcium channel blockers have become the preferred first medical treatment for cramping in patients who get them often for unknown reasons.

A few people find that a daily dose of vitamin B complex prevents cramping.


soundoff (488 Responses)
  1. Go Pro Locksmith Palo Alto

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.

    https://postimg.cc/gallery/BQhMkqx

    May 15, 2021 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. emergency locksmith St. Louis

    Wow this blog is very nice!

    https://www.4shared.com/folder/wPif6Zeo/Master_locksmith_St.html

    May 15, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. ac repair San Tan Valley

    carry on, dont stop

    https://photos.shutterfly.com/album/1698172424258072

    May 15, 2021 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. web cost

    Your way of describing everything in this paragraph is genuinely pleasant, every
    one be capable of simply understand it, Thanks a lot.

    May 15, 2021 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Content Marketing Boutique

    http://www.audio-iwasaki.com/ys4/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=1551&url=https://lifebusinessfitness.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. avanafil

    avanafil india avana india

    May 15, 2021 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Google Marketing Consultant

    After looking over a number of the articles on your website, I honestly like your technique of writing a blog. I book-marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Take a look at my website too and let me know how you feel.

    http://www.track.affclkr.com/track/clicks/3171/c627c2b89e0522dbfe9cbd2e8d2b8914736245cb75e9f0ab416db1046005?t=http://www.callfeeder.com

    May 15, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Maserati Leasing Price

    I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!

    http://dmca.com/Protection/Status.aspx?ID=edc817fd-d796-4c84-abb8-d1cb5b2e3719&refurl=http://club-maserati.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. 2014 Maserati Granturismo Convertible

    I really love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you develop this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own website and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called. Cheers!

    https://www.dresscircle-net.com/suteki/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=633&url=https://club-maserati.com

    May 15, 2021 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Night Club

    This is my first time pay a visit at here and i am truly happy to
    read all at single place.

    May 15, 2021 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Seo Marketing Agencies

    There's definately a lot to find out about this subject. I love all of the points you've made.

    https://simpson-select.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. aika online private server

    https://members.sitegadgets.com/scripts/jumparound.cgi?goto=https://aikareborn.com/wiki/relics_stats/

    May 16, 2021 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. brimonidine

    generic combigan combigan side effects

    May 16, 2021 at 02:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Social Media Marketing Ideas

    https://www.affiliate.joomla-monster.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=789&url=https://affordableranking.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 03:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Social Media Marketing Quote

    http://www.dmvusa.com/get-page-html.php?url=http://www.affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 06:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Digital Marketing Firm

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the internet. I am going to highly recommend this website!

    http://www.kazus.info/url.php?url=http://www.affordableranking.com

    May 16, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Online Tutorial

    Whats up this is kinda of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    May 16, 2021 at 07:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. covid testing sites near me

    http://www.rentv.com/phpAds/adclick.php?bannerid=116&zoneid=316&source=&dest=https://gopepenergy.com

    May 16, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. horse trailers in california

    Hey there! I simply wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great information you've got right here on this post. I will be coming back to your website for more soon.

    http://www.onionring.jp/rank.cgi?mode=link&id=281&url=http://www.ksubandb.org/?attachment_id=720

    May 16, 2021 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. brimonidine

    brimonidine use combigan generic prices

    May 16, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Leave a Reply to Boomcycle Digital Marketing SEO company


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.