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 (1,026 Responses)
  1. Joe Green

    The author left out something, the muscles in the legs are postural muscles, they don't like to change direction quickly or they will cramp. Also, their length and function make them tight.

    May 25, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AJ

      I went through a period of time where my leg and feet cramps were severe, lasting for up to 2 hours or more, and stretching nor heat therapy worked to ease them. My doctor evaluated my diet, but couldn't find the culprit, and I was physically fit but not overdoing it. Then we evaluated my medications and I realized they started after switching to a new birth control medicine. We changed to a different birth control medication and the cramps went away. Now I have "normal" leg cramps, and have found what works best to ease them are stretching or walking during the cramp (stretching before bed helps, and having a good exercise routine works to prevent them altogether for me, although others have more trouble with leg cramps when they exercise), staying hydrated, applying heat to the cramp, and having a good balance of calcium, potassium, and vitamin B complex in my system.

      May 25, 2011 at 10:57 | Report abuse |
  2. visitor

    I was having lower leg cramps in my sleep, then i learned why myself, i had started taking liquid vitamin b complex, i was taking too much and the overdose was causing my cramps ,stopped taking the liquid form and the cramps stopped,
    Then sometime later i started getting a cramp in my toes , this i learned was being caused by an ingredient in Tylenol PM , stopped taking those and that cramp stopped , so is you started a new vitamin regiment ,try reducing the amount or stop altogether and see if this helps you as it did me.

    May 25, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Marylander

    For about 3 months before I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes (at 35), I awoke with terrible leg cramps in my calves. Just a suggestion.

    May 25, 2011 at 09:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. tink0

    I have had severe leg cramps since my first pregnancy 37 years ago. I wake up in full cramp in the middle of the night with multiple cramp sites in both legs at the same time. I have found that taking a calcium helps to make them less severe and prevent a little. If I forget my daily calcium for 3 or more days I start cramping lightly and that reminds me. Hot water on a washcloth covering the cramps helps ease it immensely. It is better than stretching when I have cramps. Stretching is good to prevent cramps. I have been doing this routine for 37 years and it works for me. When I had my first one my OB told me that they were caused by the lack of calcium and to take tums for calcium. Funny when I was a big milk drinker when I was younger. My husband and I polished off a gallon of milk a week each. Lacking calcium didn't make sense but taking the extra calcium worked so who was I to argue?

    May 25, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. carolae

    Occasionally during the middle of the night, I will turn over and my legs must go out straight for when they do, I get a muscle cramp in the calf of one of my legs and bolt right up to a sitting position rubbing the calf quickly. The pain lasts for about 1 min. or so and then disappears. When you try to walk, its a bit sore for a few moments then is fine. I honestly have to say that it takes my breath away as it is so sudden. Being this happens only in the middle of the night, it's quite natural that one does not fall back to sleep anytime soon.

    May 25, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. frankie

    I had a similar problem while doing sports in college. I found that I had low potassium levels, and simple fix was to eat at least 2 bananas a day. I'm sure a vitamin would work as well.

    May 25, 2011 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Pete

    I use Rehydrate from Advocare to ensure proper hydration, works great! can't buy it in the store but you can here: http://www.advocare.com/09013719 under "Active" section of products

    May 25, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Waida Liu Godfrey

    Stand up on the cramped leg immediately. It will disappear like magic. It "forces" it out!

    May 25, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seraphim0

      Complete BS.

      One thing that can (can, not always) work is massaging the muscle as it is cramping.

      May 25, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • notBS

      This used to work for me as well – but not just standing up, I had to stand up on my tiptoes. It hurt even worse than the original cramp but would cause it to go away in about 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes. Also I added bananas to my diet and it stopped the cramps from happening at all.

      May 25, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse |
    • Spike5

      That may be magic for you, but when I get those cramps in my calf and foot it takes many minutes to ease up–even while I stand up, walk around, stretch, and whimper. I find only heat helps, a heating pad wrapped around my leg to start and, if all else fails, putting my legs in a scalding hot bath. Even after all that, if I wiggle my toes or stretch wrong, it starts up again. For me, it's almost always associated with electrolyte imbalance from dehydration.

      May 26, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse |
    • Pete88

      not for me, stood up straight away, even walked around, still going on 20 minutes after.

      January 27, 2018 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
  9. Van Williams

    Wow that's good knowledge !! !!

    May 25, 2011 at 10:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. KatyDo

    I am 66, and have had off and on problems with leg cramps. I was going to a lot of meetings and sitting on a hard chair for hours at a time. At first, i would get up often and walk around. Finally, I found that I just needed to drink water! Last week i sat on a hard chair for 4 hours, and since I have been in the habit of starting my day with a large glass of water, before breakfast, and drining during the day – no leg cramps!

    May 25, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Natalie

    I have had leg cramps for years that can be minimal (gone in a few minutes) to severe (takes several minutes). Don't ask me why, but placing a plain white bar of soap (Ivory or similar) under the fitted sheet of your bed by your legs helps. I still get them, but not as often or severe, and it is usually because I have not drank enough water. Also, sometimes when I do have a cramp, I will take a potassium supplement and the cramp will go away within minutes. Good luck!

    May 25, 2011 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Lily

    Don't know why but extra Vitamin E works wonders. One tab 2/3 times a week in addition to what's in your multiple
    is enough.

    May 25, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Stwart Jenssen

    Excellent response of the health care provider. Only should not treat it yourself because that's where subsequent problems. Not order without prescription medicines because their side effects more complicated disease. There are many people taking simple pain vicodin and this is dangerous.

    Stwart Jenssen
    Findrxonline blog

    May 25, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sal

    I am 73 and I've been getting leg cramps for many years now. I notice that when sleeping in a semi fetal position I can feel a cramp coming on, and I immediately straighten out my legs and sometimes I can avoid the cramp that way. Sometimes I can't stop it from coming on. Let me tell you it's painful and it actually feels like a bone is ready to pop out of my calf. I get these calf cramps about once or twice a month, and like I said I notice it happens more when sleep with my legs curled up. 

    May 25, 2011 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ekkeekke

    You don't know pain until you get cramp in your tongue (trying to get food from between my back teeth...)

    Trust me, that sh** HURTS.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Serena

    I have been getting leg cramps (or "the jimmy legs" as they were called on Seinfeld) off and on since I was a teen. For me, they tend to occur on hotter, more humid nights. I have found that the quinine in tonic water absolutely helps! Also, even though it's hard to find sometimes, quinine tablets or supplements are amazing and quick fixes. I always have them in stock for the summer months. Walgreens carries an "herbal supplement" with quinine under the name Hyland's Leg Cramps. 40 nights of relief for $5.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Thinquer

    Simple calcium deficiency can also cause cramps and painful menstrual cramping . Most of us do not get enough calcium in our diets. Study a calcium intake chart for your age group and see where you stand. The answer can be as easy as taking your calcium daily. It was for me. (Woman, age 50, 1200mgs per day) Cramps are gone and so is my depression. Calcium is also helpful in remyelinizing neural sheaths, restoring sleep and nerve balance. -Mom

    May 25, 2011 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. TeeH

    I've had night leg cramps most of my life but have always attributed it to sports, dehydration, and general overuse. During my last annual physical I learned that my vitamin D numbers were way below normal. I was put on vitamin D supplements for four months (50000 IU a week) and immediately the cramping and general joint discomfort went away. Now I take 2000 IU a day and have had no further cramping (except a few toe cramps). I sleep much better too. For me, it was vitamin D that did the job.

    May 25, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kaitlyn

    Has anyone of you all had cramps in your toes? It hurts so bad and it feels like my toes will break!

    May 25, 2011 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kaitlyn

      I'm replying to myself. Besides hurting so bad it sure looks funny when my toes go in five different directions!

      May 25, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
    • Denise

      Kaitlyn – Yes, I'll get those too, and my toes will press down (not curl down). Also get bad cramps the length of the inside of my feet. I'm going to try the calcium supplement and see if that helps. These cramps come on after I've done something rigorous like mowing the lawn, cleaning house, etc. Then, when I sit down to cool off/rest, here they come! I have to immediately get up and walk around and they ease off.

      May 25, 2011 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
    • Trish

      Yes, it's usually my right foot big toe. It is so painful and it does feel like the toe will break. I think I should be drinking more water and maybe increase the amount of bananas I eat.

      December 22, 2018 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
  20. Doonga

    I had night time leg cramps for years, DVT.... heads-up ppl, get checked....

    May 25, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Janet

      DVT - he means Deep Vein Thrombosis. Go to WebMD and look up what this means. A very serious condition and one you don't want to ignore or put off.

      May 25, 2011 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
  21. kathy

    I get cramps on my toes, feet arches , calf muscles, , upper legs... you name it! There was a period that was so bad that my husband had to "trow me " into a hot tub to help with the pain .. he was so scared he even called 911 because my legs were turning into each other so badly he thought my leg bones were ready to pop... he described it as an "The Exorcist" movie like experience . My toes will get into "braid" so weird and painful. I will get them in both legs at the same time. Nothing wrong with calcium levels.. no Doctors answer at this point. I can jump out the bed in the middle of the night to try to avoid and upcoming one , only to get another one developing in another area. .. in limbo.. here 🙁

    May 25, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jessica

      You may have low potassium, eat bananas.

      May 25, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jeanna

      I had cramps in my calves, feet, and toes during the night a couple of years ago that lasted for hours. I had had them before, but nothing like this. I would get them in multiple places in both legs/feet at once and as soon as one cramp ended, another would start. Plus each cramp was lasting for a long time. I was in agony! I needed to stand up to try to relieve the cramps but it was impossible to stand on my feet because they were cramping so hard they were curling under, as were my toes. If I could have found an emergency clinic open in the middle of the night, I would have went. (I didn't really want to pay to go to the emergency room). My husband took me to the doctor the next morning (I couldn't put on my shoes). They ran some blood tests and it turned out I was critically low in magnesium. I now take magnesium supplements and the cramps have stopped.

      May 25, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
  22. Gary

    Ususally due to potassium depletion. Eat a banana or take potassium once a day. This will cure it fast.

    May 25, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Janet

    Plantar fasciitis can also cause leg and toe cramping - the arch in your foot begins to flatten. Try an orthopedic doctor to see if this is going on.

    Per the Mayo Clinic:
    Plantar fasciitis (PLAN-tur fas-e-I-tis) involves pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue, called the plantar fascia, that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.
    Plantar fasciitis commonly causes stabbing pain that usually occurs with your very first steps in the morning. Once your foot limbers up, the pain of plantar fasciitis normally decreases, but it may return after long periods of standing or after getting up from a seated position.
    Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners. In addition, people who are overweight, women who are pregnant and those who wear shoes with inadequate support are at risk of plantar fasciitis.

    The orthopedic doctor can recommend custom orthotics to help the fallen arches, a medical 'boot' to wear at night, stretching exercises, and a particular type of ultrasound therapy (sorta like 'ultra' ultrasound). In-office procedure. Works wonders!

    May 25, 2011 at 13:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Diana

    I have always gotten toe cramps and I push down and walk; usually goes away quickly. With my first preganancy, I started getting cramps in my calves. I believe it was a calcium or potassium shortage then. I still get them but by massaging my calf and walking they go away very quickly. But, I recently started getting them in my thighs. I have never experienced anything so excruciating. Sometimes they would be in both thighs and the cramps would spread both up and down. Almost nothing helped. Finally, I used a heating pad, but then that stopped working. I was taking Lipitor and remembered that this could be a side effect of the Lipitor. I stopped using it about a month ago and have not had a cramp since.

    May 25, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jessica

    Not mentioned but should have been is that while you can have low calcium that can cause cramps low potassium levels can also cause cramping. Eating a banana three time a week can help with low potassium.

    May 25, 2011 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Helen

    Too much sugar will give me leg cramps, and I cannot eat dates at all or I get cramps in my feet/toes. My husband and I got a prescription for quinine, which really takes care of the night time cramps, but thanks, Serena, for info on the Walgreens herbal supplement with quinine – we're going to give that a try.

    May 25, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kat

    I get regular, "locking" cramps in my legs, toes, thighs, abdominal muscles, back muscles and below the breasts. The doctor has tried diet changes (including the bananas, the re-hydration, the tonic water). He just basically told me that, really, doctors don't have any idea why some people are prone to serious cramping. But, it appears to be genetic. My mother gets them, too. The worst part: They can't be stretched out or walked off. When you step into the cramp, the muscles remain contracted. That's the latest joyous development. So, I envy those of you who have found your common causes. When it cramps under my breasts on both sides, I even have trouble breathing for awhile. Nasty things.

    May 25, 2011 at 15:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Observer

    My own experience shows that cramps are typically related to blood circulation. When my legs, and especially feet, are warm and not overly tired, everything goes smooth. However, I can easily get a cramp at night or in the middle of the day, if my feet are cold or not moving for a while, or if I ware not the most comfortable pare of shoes. Wear socks to bed and chose a comfortable position, that should help. At least it helps me.

    May 25, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PatSJ

      Also try putting a throw blanket on top of the bed from the area of your knees down. Worked for me.

      May 25, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse |
  29. Sashs

    Leg cramps can also be caused for women with iron deficiency, low hemoglobin count. After I started iron tablets, I don't get cramps. I used to get cramps when I stretch my legs in sleep . It can be quickly reversed by pointing your feet towards yourself when stretching rather than pointing the feet away .

    May 25, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Joe

    I get horrible leg cramps all the time. I get incredibly stiff legs about 2-3 days after working out and it lasts a few days. During this time, if I move my legs wrong or use the muscle in the wrong way, I will get an immediate leg cramp that will last a couple minutes. I have to walk like I'm an old man, and have trouble getting in my car, sitting down, or even walking up stairs. So when I get stiff legs, I need to be very careful not to use my leg muscles. And I should mention, I'm only 32 and otherwise in pretty good shape (not overweight, run 5 miles 3x/week, lift weights 2x/week). Stretching helps a little, but who has 30 minutes a day to stretch? I've seen doctors and PTs, but nobdy really understands or can treat it. I eat bananas every day, drink water, etc. Other than stretching, which helps a little, nothing has really helped. I'm open to ideas...

    May 25, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DFB

      I came upon this web site when I was looking for a possible connection between Plantar Fasciitis and leg cramps. I have not found any notes to that effect, and agree that nobody seems to know what the cause of cramps is. Building a garden shed this summer I found I was getting leg cramps virtually every night – the most painful were in the thighs. In the local Ace Hardware store I ran across an old Amish cure in a bottle, and decided to try it. Taking one dose before bed each night I was surprised that my leg cramps stopped. Here is a link to it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Caleb-Treeze-Organic-Farms-Cramps/dp/B002TC661O/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1484230595&sr=8-2&keywords=caleb+treeze I am a strong skeptic of this type of thing but was desperate to try something. You might find it worth the 10 bucks.

      January 12, 2017 at 09:24 | Report abuse |
  31. Cherry

    My mother has suffered from cramps in the calves at night for many years. Her doctor put her on quinine, but she had bad side effects. She read an article in a magazine that said the cramps could be from poor circulation and that 400 i.u. of Vit. E could help. She has been taking Vit. E ever since. Occasionally she still gets a cramp and then she adds an extra Vit. E that day. This has worked for her for over 25 years.

    May 25, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Ria

    I had bad leg cramps before and the only thing that really helped me was privic, you can check them out at http://www.privic.com, hope it can help you too!

    May 25, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Lee Oates

    I am calling for an investigation of the takeover of all CNN sites on Libya by, apparently paid, Gadhafi people. All views that support the rebels are being deleted. This is foreign intervention into the right of Americans to express their views.It would seem that Gadhafi's supporters are frightened to face criticism from Americans, so do everything they can to block it.

    The great majority of commenters have been against Gadhafi, a bloody dictator and murderer, and have been systematically removed since the conflict began. CNN is no longer a place to exchange opinions, it has become a Gadhafi propaganda machine.

    I will continue to place this message on every news media outlet I can until some action is taken.

    If you would like to help keep America free from Gadhafi's crew (apparently headed by namia), please repost this somewhere.

    May 25, 2011 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Donna

    I have had had leg cramps for over 30 years. My solution has been to put a heating pad inside my bed every night. As soon as my feet hit cold sheets, my toes would cramp. As long as I have the sheets warm, I do not have cramps. I also have been trying to drink more water, which I think helps a great deal. In fact, the water makes my whole system work better.

    May 25, 2011 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. PatSJ

    I used to have severe leg cramps at night. I now put a throw (small quilt) across the bottom of my bed which gives extra coverage from my knees down. No more leg cramps in years. I think my legs were cramping because I turned and stretched my legs into a cold area of the bed.

    May 25, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. kelly

    My husband has been trying to lose weight for a long time now but nothing since to work. He has a tight schedule with work and school so he is only able to excercise 3 nights a week and when he does, he excercises for about 1.5 hours. He has been eating salads for lunch, he drinks a lot of water, he eats atleast 3 servings of fruits a day. He tries to avoid a lot of crbs especially in the evening and he drinkd green tea every morning. The problem is he does not seem to be losing any weight especially in the belly area. He takes Metfomin and actos for blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. What could be wrong? He is trying really hard but in 5 weeks he has lost only 5 pounds.

    May 25, 2011 at 17:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stephen

      Any progress, is better than no progress at all, in your husband's struggle to lose weight. Sudden weight loss can be dangerous. Most people only need protein about the size of your fist, every day, to get by. Unfortunately, many "super-size" their protein, ie..huge portions. Swimming is an excellent work out. I love to float on my back, in a nearby lake, and listen to the bones in my shoulders, snap and crack, as I swing my arms, wide above my head. It feels great! Plus, I can watch the clouds float by. 🙂

      May 25, 2011 at 17:30 | Report abuse |
    • b

      drop all sugar, high fructose corn crap, and processed foods, add whole grains and natural foods, drink a LOT of water, and give it time...the body needs time to adjust to the changes before it'll accept them as permanent and change accordingly

      May 25, 2011 at 21:34 | Report abuse |
  37. gman21

    1 banana a day.

    May 25, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. SoulCatcher

    I am type I diabetic, metabolic syndrome (waist 36 so borderline there), get toe cramps, calf cramps shin splint like pain. Honestly I don't eat right and have problems with gum disease. I take lipitor, tricor, lisinopril, baby aspirin, daily vitamin. Insulin 35 units lantis daily, 105 humulog at meals. the insulin is not enough or doesn't work completely as my numbers still remain high.

    Prior to this I had only type II and was a 34 waist and thin and worked out. I noticed I hit a wall when I could not get my heart rate up to do cardio when previously I could do this for 1+ hours.

    I currently follow a low-carb diet, but this does not control my blood sugar well. After doing a lot of research on how insulin works, I think the real answer is elsewhere in my case. I'm trying magnesium and zinc suplements and COQ-10. I want to try D-Ribose also to see if that helps.

    I am also sensitive to flouride and have weakened enamel from braces, so I cannot brush my teeth in the frequency I'd like. i do floss. There is a linkage with gum disease and heart disease so I figure precautions there can't hurt.

    May 25, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Brooke

    I had leg cramps for over a year when I had chronic diarrhea from (it turned out) taking SAM-e. Sometimes I couldn't walk half a block without aching legs, which would then ache and ache for hours. Magnesium sometimes helped, although Advil was the only thing that worked consistently. What worked the best was stopping SAM-e and not having diarrhea anymore. Crikey.

    May 25, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. SoulCatcher

    105 total split accross meals.

    May 25, 2011 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Pam

    A few bars of soap tucked in between the bottom sheet and the mattress pad ... it works ... don't know why ... also drink a lot of water, eat a banana a day, etc. When the cramp starts, I move my foot to the bar of soap and it dissipates ... used to always have to jump up and stand on my leg to relieve the cramp.

    May 25, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. b

    30+ year runner and cyclist...been there, done that.

    get checked out by your md first to rule out something serious.

    go to a good cycling store, and ask for hammer nutrition endurolytes supplements (you can also order them online). take 1-2 before going to bed. they contain not only potassium, but most of the other likely culprits you might be missing (minus sodium, which isn't a problem for most in the us).

    May 25, 2011 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mary

    I used to get pretty bad leg cramps that would wake me up right at 4:00am. Now I drink alittle low sodium V8 at night and I don't get them anymore. It has helped so much, and I don't even drink it every night but about every other night. It really works, but it is high in potassium.

    May 25, 2011 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. dxkelly

    I used to have leg cramps frequently. Taking calcium and potassium supplements got rid of them.

    May 25, 2011 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. skcampbell

    my husband has severe leg cramps in the summer months mostly...his granfather's cousin (now deceased) told us that "back in the day" they used to put a bar of soap in the foot of the bed. no one has any idea how/why this works, but we decided to give it a try. soap is cheap, right? and my husband HATES taking medicine and dislikes going to the doctor. we tried it and for over 3 years now (we replace the soap every couple of months), he has had NO leg cramps. as far as i know, any brand will work. i just bought a trial size (about $1) bar of dove or ivory to try it with. he passed this information on to his dad & stepmom and they are still using it today also. i KNOW it sounds crazy, but it helps.

    May 26, 2011 at 00:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Dr. Thomp

    Add Vitamin B1 (Thiamin) and Charlie Horse's go away.

    May 26, 2011 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Tom Lamb

    Surprised no one has mentioned this. LONG ago at a Red Cross Lifesaving (swimming) class I learned that one may get a leg cramp while swimming vigorously to rescue a swimmer. And how to cure it.

    Stretch your leg out very straight, then bend your ankle (toes up) as hard as you can. This stretches the cramping muscle in the back of your leg. If I do this immediately the cramp disappears. This is what the ARC said to do and it always works for me. Simple, try it. TOM

    May 26, 2011 at 07:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. NurseOne

    I treat varicose veins and venous insufficiency for a living. Many patients being treated for leg cramps and RLS also have severe varicose veins and once treated, the RLS and cramps go away. There are many causes of leg pain and "cramping."

    May 26, 2011 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. JoeS

    When I have a Leg Cramp attack, I immediately stand up and will alleviate the attack right away.

    May 26, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. drsolo

    I started getting cramps including cramps between the ribs from straining on the "pot", even when reaching too far to pick something up. I quite using nexium and most of the cramps stopped. I lost 35 lbs and no cramps. I used quinine sulfate to stop the cramps, takes about 10 minutes.

    May 26, 2011 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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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.