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

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  1. jf79

    I've had leg/foot cramps my whole life while sleeping. (I'm 32) My doctor checked my potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels and they were all well within normal levels. I have chronic leg edema now (due to surgeries in my abdomen), and since then my leg cramps have gotten a little worse, sometimes. I think circulation plays a role in it.

    August 3, 2011 at 00:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Lisa

    I used to have leg cramps, took 2 tbsp of yellow mustard, in five minutes just went away. Also a banana before going to bed helps. Try it, really helps!

    August 3, 2011 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Spaceman

      Lisa, if you ever had real man cramps you would know 5 minutes is not survivable 🙂

      August 3, 2011 at 01:53 | Report abuse |
    • vincey

      I had severe leg cramps during my four pregnancies. I learned to control them by focusing on the area, and literally forcing the muscles to relax by concentration on them. It worked for me, and for several other people I convinced to try it. Might work for you.

      August 3, 2011 at 02:12 | Report abuse |
    • Thinquer

      We are a calcium deficient society and very few people know it. Both men and women do not get the amounts they need from today's diet.
      At age 50 should be getting 800 iu and women need 1200 iu daily. Muscles need calcium . When there is insufficient calcium available, the muscles seize up. Magnesium and potassium also need to be checked. Take your calcium supplements and watch the cramps (including PMS cramps ) disappear.

      August 3, 2011 at 07:27 | Report abuse |
    • Joseph Bleaux

      @thinquer – I guess you don't read very well. She said there is NO evidence that calcium deficiency causes leg cramps. Ditto for magnesium and potasium. But I guess you know more than the doctors do.

      August 3, 2011 at 08:51 | Report abuse |
    • Erica

      @Joseph Bleaux

      I guess YOU don't read very well. She said there is no evidence that magnesium and potassium deficiencies cause leg cramps. Calcium wasn't mentioned.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse |
    • rem

      I haven't read all the responses. I do disagree with the info in the article. I am a 25+ year runner, now in my 60s. I find that if I am not drinking enough water on my run days I am more likely to get leg cramps. They don't happen just in the calfs, for me it's mostly thighs and they don't always happen when I sleep. Once I rehydrate with enough water, they go away. It also helps to drink a sport drink high in electrilights and trace minerals. I have been going through this for enough years to know that there is a corolation, regardless of what medical science says. I run 6 miles at a clip. usually every other day. The pain is the worst that I have ever felt in my life, truly crippling. It often takes several minutes to get it to subside.

      August 3, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      The pain of leg cramps usually do subside or go away in 5 minutes.

      August 3, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse |
    • Leg cramps greatly reduced

      I found a solution for my leg cramps. I have had them since I was a teenager and now I am in my 50's. Just this year I realized that my legs cramps dramatically increased when I increased my consumption of certain diet sodas, I only drink diet so don't know if this applies to non diet. I ran out of soda for a week and noticed my legs cramps went away. I have also noticed that not all diet sodas affect me the same way. Some I can drink so you just learn which ones to avoid.

      Short answer is that I have proven that I get rare legs cramps if I don't drink diet soda.
      To see if you have the same issue then stop drinking any soda for at least 7 days. You should start to notice improvement by the end of that first week. At least I did.

      August 3, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
  3. GetAGrip

    I always keep Muscle Milk around. When I get leg cramps at night, I really get smacked hard with them, they run up and down the insides of my thighs and through my calves, and it's enough to take my breath away. I drink some Muscle Milk, and within 5 minutes the cramps are completely gone. I don't mean to endorse a product, but it's really the only thing that gives me really fast relief in a desperate situation. I buy the shakes at Costco by the case. I don't know of anything else that gives the same relief.

    August 3, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sabina

      Thank you!

      August 3, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
  4. Henny Weissman

    try tonic with quinine

    August 3, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dannie

      Add a little gin to the quinine tonic and it'll cure anything that ails you ... I couldn't resist : )

      August 3, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
    • Phantom Fan

      Henny, I agree with you. I broke a toe on my left foot in 2008, after about two hours of sleep the top of my foot would cramp up near the toes. Because of the broken toe I couldn't stretch out the cramp like I do my leg cramps. A friend of mine suggested the tonic water. I did some research on quinine, tried the tonic water, and had no more problems with the cramps. Now I drink it when I feel my legs getting ready for another round of leg cramps.

      September 20, 2011 at 06:11 | Report abuse |
  5. Spaceman

    Get Some Sleep: Avoid Cankles

    August 3, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thinquer

      Got cankles? Get rid of the high heels. They shorten the muscle space between the calf and the heel causing the cankle.
      Lengthen this area by stretching and wearing supportive flats . Save the heels for special occasions only. If you wear them all your adult life.... CANKLES!

      August 3, 2011 at 07:26 | Report abuse |
    • Cathy W

      Though high heels are associated with a number of problems – shortened achilles tendons, and osteoarthritis of the knee (which is enough to make ME not wear them anymore), I don't think they are the cause of cankles

      August 3, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
  6. becca

    i have leg cramps maybe once every 2-4 months but there bad. u just pull your toes back toward your body and stretch your muscle and it goes away. but u got to do it a few times. i dont know about u guys but when i have one when i get up in the morning it hurts to walk on that leg but the pain is not anything like a cramp.

    August 3, 2011 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Meaghan

      That works for me, too. Also, vigorously massaging my calf right after the cramp to ease it, then stretch. I also get up out of bed and walk around my room and do some yoga stretches (downward facing dog!). I noticed that mine happen after a combination of exercize and dehydration. I'm usually sore and tight for a few days after the cramp.

      August 3, 2011 at 09:32 | Report abuse |
  7. fef

    Leg & feet cramps waking me up every night so when one of my friends told me to drink pickle juice when my they were cramping so I tried it. Drinking the pickle juice would clear up the cramps within 10 minutes and I could sleep the rest of the night. As strange as it sounds – it really works!

    August 3, 2011 at 02:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Dammitall61

    After having a few years of severe nightime leg cramps that felt like my leg muscles were being torn, I realized that my blood pressure meds were dehydrating me. I now make a point to drink more water daily and to have water available at my bedside. I have not had leg cramps, not even once, since then.

    August 3, 2011 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. tammy

    well mom used to makke me eat lotsa banana's because she believed or got told that leg cramps were caused from lack of banana's. what i have found out though on my own, even if i have a leg cramp when im sleeping, i change the position of my leg and find a spot where the cramp is not as bad, and then it goes away real quick, i have done this many times in the past, and it helps each time. try it the next time you get a cramp

    August 3, 2011 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tammy

      i know it sounds silly, but it helps a whole lot

      August 3, 2011 at 04:53 | Report abuse |
  10. Bruce

    I've had severe and frequent leg cramps for over ten years, sometimes ten or more in a single night. I often can't get any sleep because as soon as I nod off, there goes another cramp, and the only way to relieve it is to stomp on my feet to force the muscles to relax. Electrolytes didn't help at all, nor did bananas. Quinine, the old cure for malaria, worked only minimally but can damage the blood. While studying for a 6-hour certs test I accidentally found a paliative that works very well. I'd begun taking Ginkho Biloba to help me remember the thousands of obscure facts for the test but found it didn't help my memory in the least. It did, however stop my cramps completely. It functions by increasing blood flow to the extremities, one of which is your head, hence the memory-enhancement marketing model. Happily for cramp sufferers, it also increaes blood flow to your feet. All you need is one pill a night of the standard grocery store variety. The stuff is dirt cheap and has no side-effects. Just don't take it with blood thinners or more than the recommended dose, as it can lower platelet counts. IVitamin E has the same effect as well as the same problem with blood thinners and platelets.

    August 3, 2011 at 04:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lena

      Thanks Bruce, I may try the Ginko. I've tried everything else under the sun and I know it has nothing to do with my water consumption. I easily drink 8 glasses a day. I don't drink carbonated beverages. just water. I have both RLS and leg cramps and have had them for the past 30 years. Mine hit in the middle of the night and i end up jumping to my feet in the middle of the night to relieve the pain. I also get them just sitting in a recliner watching tv. I get the cramps in my feet as well. painful painful painful! I also get severe muscle cramps across my back, chest, sides and abdomen. Sometimes they are so severe they take my breath away. Any time I have ever sought medical help I have gotten nowhere, so I just take it on the chin and keep going. The RLS is another matter entirely. it's like someone pulling on the nerves in my legs and if I don't 'move' my legs I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin! You have to move them, you just can't help it.. and sometimes they jump all by themselves.. annoying! I sure hope the Ginko works for me.. never took it for the memory enhancement.. didn't think it would work.

      August 3, 2011 at 06:00 | Report abuse |
    • Joseph Bleaux

      I have leg cramps, occaisionally severe. But unfortunately I can't use Ginko, I have ulcerative colitis and Ginko causes a severe flare up.

      August 3, 2011 at 08:54 | Report abuse |
    • Anny

      I have serious and extremely painful leg cramps each and every night also. Stomping on the ground in the hopes it stops. But that is not helping me sleep and truthfully I want to eliminate them completely. Where did you buy this product. I'm willing to give that one a try. I've been trying tonic with quinine...I already take 2400 units of calcium daily (per my doctor for bone loss)...so one more pill won't kill me.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  11. anon

    Proper hydration and muscle stretching is beneficial to combatting leg cramps, but I don't know if it's the exclusive cause of leg cramps.

    August 3, 2011 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ClarenceB

    For forty years, I used to have very severe leg cramps, from the toes, to the calves and the hamstrings. When I changed my eating habits to an alkaline diet, because of gout, my leg cramps went away. An alkaline diet is not a weight loss diet or fad, so research many sites. So if you eat a lot of processed foods you may want to check into it.

    August 3, 2011 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Jon L

    I believe the potassium deficiency is the case for a lot of people. I know each case must be different, but I'm just speaking from personal experience. I used to get bad cramps in my calves after playing basketball for two or three hours until I added a potassium supplement to my diet. Once I was taking in more potassium, the cramps went away.

    August 3, 2011 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chang Tang

      Which potassium supplement do you take? Or, how many pills at a time do you take, since each potassium pill contains only 2% of daily recommendation? Thanks.

      August 3, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • Jon L

      I take the GNC potassium gluconate supplement. Each pill is 99 mg, and I would take 10 of them in one sitting. Every person's dietary needs will differ from somebody else's, but I remember reading that a DRI (daily recommended intake) of potassium is in the range of 4700mg. Examine how much potassium you get from your diet, and then supplement the difference. I would space out the dosages over the course of the day - maybe three or four doses depending on how much potassium you need to add to your diet. Hopefully this is helpful.

      August 3, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
  14. Thinquer

    We are a calcium deficient society and very few people know it. Both men and women do not get the amounts they need from today's diet.
    At age 50 should be getting 800 iu and women need 1200 iu daily. Muscles need calcium . When there is insufficient calcium available, the muscles seize up. Magnesium and potassium also need to be checked. Take your calcium supplements and watch the cramps (including PMS cramps ) disappear.

    August 3, 2011 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lindalou

    They made it sound like they had the cure, but all they did was bring out the home remedies among the readers.

    August 3, 2011 at 07:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cheryl

      THANK YOU! I kept looking to see if I missed the "helpful" part of the article. I have RLS and also PMLD (I kick in my sleep)....the BF has more of the other leg cramps (more severe than my pins/needles but less often). Appreciating the replies though!

      August 3, 2011 at 09:00 | Report abuse |
    • Sabina

      And the problem with "home remedies" is?

      August 3, 2011 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
  16. BHANK

    I am now 50 and have suffered for 20 plus years with moderate to severe leg cramps almost every night. The only time I didnt hav eleg cramps was when i was taking quinine (which was taken off the market) and now the foot and calf cramps have turned into full on calf, thigh and groin area. When they strike i have to walk around the house and they usually go away after 45 mintues or so, so sleep deprivation has been an on going reality for me. I really wish some one can find the cause.

    August 3, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. CHH

    For the last couple of years I've been having spasms in my feet and lower leg. It cramps so badly that my foot will actually turn inwards. Is this what everyone else is having? It's not the calf muscle, though that is quite painful. The lower leg and foot cramping however can take your breath away the pain is so horrible. I guess I want to know if other people get this kind of cramping/spasms and what you do to help it.

    August 3, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BrianS

      CHH; you may want to talk to a neurologist to see if you might have Dystonia. My wife does and she gets the same symptoms you're describing.

      August 3, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse |
    • ladydi

      This is exactly the kind of cramps I get.....in the feet and calf, and my foot actually bends, Very very painful. I try walking around – doesnt do anyhting. I drink alot of water but still get these cramps.I'm at the end of my rpoe with this – I dont know what to do....anybody got ideas?

      August 3, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
  18. NN

    Suffered for years from bad calf cramping, one day in the newspaper I read about how a bar of soap helps keep cramps away. Yes it sounded like a crazy thing and borderline voodo, IT WORKED. I've been cramp free for about 10 years. Just keep a bar of soap under the sheets by your legs. Just take it out of the packaging and leave it footside. That's it, crazy huh?

    August 3, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LH

      Have read elsewhere about the soap bt I have found a cork nder the bottom sheet works alot of the time. Read an article in UK that mentioned it when I was wakng up a number (2-4) times a night with foot cramps that would shoot me out of bed. Felt that really had nothing to lose by placing a cork under the bedsheet (worst case if from red wine then a possible stain), and found that it actualy seemed to help – more so than the banana, quinine, calcium options at least. I replace the cork periodically. As the only commonality between cork and soap is the elevation of a portion of the bottom sheet, assume that has something to do with it.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever! Unless you lay in the same position all night (which I don't know a person on earth who does), what is the bar of soap or a cork supposed to do? It's not putting any pressure on your calf, foot, let and the minute you roll over....well you get my point.
      We're looking for real answers and peoples experiences here, not BS hocus pocus!

      August 3, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse |
    • Joan

      I have had so many older people tell me this about a bar of soap. I laughed at first, but than I tried it. IT WORKS! I have no clue what the reason is, but this old time remedy is great. Don't use a fancy cosmetic type, just a regular bar of soap. One that was suggested to me was Ivory or Zest. Place under your sheet by the foot of your bed and your cramps will be gone.

      August 3, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  19. NN

    Before the comments start, I meant calve. Oops, got coffee?

    August 3, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Joseph Bleaux

    I seem to get far fewer leg cramps when I excercise strenuously, enough to really break out in a sweat.

    August 3, 2011 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. MJ

    @CHH – i get severe cramps in my calves and feet and my feet twist into the weirdest positions when they cramp, so you are no alone. I haven't found anything that helps yet. I keep myself well hydrated, take potassium supplements as well as calcium suppliments, drink milk and eat yogurt for the calcium, stretch, exercise. So far I have not found any relief from night leg and foot cramps.

    August 3, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CHH

      @MJ Thanks! I've tried most of those also. I guess I'll try the ginkgo....can't hurt!

      August 3, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
    • Carol

      All this about calcium supplements is true, but you need magnesium to help with the uptake. Calcium tightens muscles, magnesium relaxes them. My foot cramping issues are almost completely gone now – they reoccur when I take antacids like Tums or Rolaids (which are indeed calcium supplements) too close to bedtime. Might want to look into that.I changed NOTHING else, not diet or exercise. Also assists with type 2 diabetes. 250 mg in the morning and again at night has made my sleep possible.

      August 3, 2011 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
    • Rae

      try CoQ10 . Good for the heart. Increases circulation and took away all my foot cramps. !00mg to 200mg per day. Hope it works for you.

      September 3, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
  22. Bob

    My doctor told me "we" don't really know why leg cramps occur. That's what this article said only it took a lot longer to say it.

    August 3, 2011 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Cole

    I have them on rare occasions. They seem to be triggered when I'm half asleep and feel the need to stretch/tighten my leg. Sometimes, the calves go wild for several seconds. Long as I avoid the urge to shift/move, I'm in the clear... I think. Hard to say what's what since it happens when I'm barely alert.

    Can't say what causes them. I eat 10+ servings of fruits/vegetables a day, so it ain't my diet. I exercise regularly 6 times a week and my calves are involved often, so it ain't activity. Best guess is that it's linked somehow with what goes on when we sleep, but, it's not like we know much about the whole sleeping process. Oh, well. I feel somewhat fortunate in that I rarely have them. Can't imagine going through multiple episodes a night – I'd be afraid to sleep.

    August 3, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mark

    I agree with the quinine idea. My mother always has severe leg cramps if she skips her diet tonic water. It has to be more than a placebo effect. As long as she has a cup of so of tonic water in the early evening, no leg cramps.

    August 3, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Joe Green

    This is not the best article on leg cramps. The lower leg muscles are some of the tightest in the body. They are also postural muscles that do not like to change position quickly without spasms. I think the real reason is that in sleep they are static and then at some point they get stretched and cramp. My 2 cents.

    August 3, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Trapalon

    I get these calf cramps much more frequently when I'm running regularly. I find that it happens for me when I stretch my legs out when I'm sleeping. So now I recognise when I'm stretching and wake up enough to make sure I don't point my toes. Instead I flex my ankles so my toes point up. I don't seem to stretch as much when I'm not running so it doesn't happen as often.

    August 3, 2011 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. walt

    try this, sitting in a chair , put your leg out resting on your heel with your foot and toes in a up position,then tip your foot toes forward, you can feel the calf mussel cramp. now try this, pull your foot back to you with your toes up ,now move your toes back and forth 3or4 times,this will relax the calf mussel and stop the cramp

    August 3, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. llo

    Try 1/2 cup of diet tonic water every night right before bedtime, I swear it works most of the time.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Helpful Coment

    My husband suffered from SEVERE muscle cramps for years before he started taking vitamin E. 200iu daily and the cramps have disappeared he has thought to stop taking the vitamin several times only to experience the cramps returning as soon as he gets on his regimen of daily doses of the vitamin they stop .

    August 3, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Chris

    I get bad leg cramps/charley horse in my legs, probably a half dozen times a month and the pain is excrutiating! The potassium found natrually in bannanas DOES help. I've used bannanas to help control these cramps and they've worked for me for years. I can't see it being a placeboas one would think the placebo effect would only work part of the time. Bannana have ALWAYS worked for me. Give it a try! It's better than taking drugs or supplements imo.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. CS

    I had these every night when I was pregnant with my first child. Especially towards the end of my pregnancy. I would shoot up out of bed and try so hard not to scream at the pain, I would hold my breath and it would fade away in like 15 seconds. They went away after I had the baby. Now I'm preg again and wondering if it will happen again. – so glad to find this article.

    I do remember having the same leg/foot paralyzing pain when I would swim a lot as a child – it was the only other instance I could compare it to.

    I ate plenty of bananas and felt that it did not help me. I also did leg stretches in the mornings, perhaps I will not do them this pregancy just to see if that was contributing... who knows.
    A co-worker told me she too had restless leg during her first pregnancy and it never went away – poor gal.

    Thank you for the article, good to see some info on it.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Brice Kibler

    Interesting article, but no identification of cause or relief or cure

    August 3, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Lynd

    I get leg cramps at night and when i do, I get up out of bed and take 100 mg of Potassium and/or 250 mg of Chelated Magnesium and that stops it for the rest of the night.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sally

    Statin drugs are well know to cause extreme muscle cramping in the legs and feet, particularly at night.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Monica

    I get severe leg cramps but its associated with my fybromialgia. Magnesium is the only thing that helps at night. Two caps and hour before bed works. Watch the # of mgs. Too much and you'll be running to the bathroom.

    August 3, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. G.

    I believe low potassium is a potential problem and can cause this. I know if I take potassium the cramps go away and when I stop and take a diuretic they come back. Also, if your legs or feet get cold at night (even slightly) this can definitely lead to much more cramping – so I would suggest trying to keep your legs warmer at night. Try it!

    August 3, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. gericho

    Put a new piece of bath in bed under the first sheet. Don't laugh and try it because it really works. About once a month change it as the fragrance becomes lighter. It really does work.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kgotway

      My grandmother has leg cramps from RLS (which runs strongly in my family) and she swears by this as well. Gotta love it when the Old Wives' Tales actually work.

      August 3, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse |
  38. gericho

    Sorry I meant bath soap.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. macdog

    I have had violent leg cramps for the last 35 years. However, over the last 5 years, they've become a regular, almost nightly issue. My calf becomes rock hard, and the pain circles around to the front of my leg, into my shin and down onto the top of my foot. It occurs in either leg, and once in a while, in both at the same time. I've awakened from a deep sleep screaming the pain is so intense. I've tried all of the above remedies...quinine, potassium, magnesium, calcium,bananas, hot baths, heat rubs...even heavy duty muscle relaxants that were prescribed and NOTHING works, at least not on a consistent or permanent basis. My doctor is as baffled as anyone. She can't figure out what the root cause maybe, although she suggested it may be related to my diabetes and the many other medications I currently take. One thing that did give me some temporary relief was canabis. A friend who has MS suggested I try it because it helps with his muscle spasms. And it did offer some relief, but I didn't like the side effects. I stopped smoking twenty years ago because it made me paranoid and after trying it for the leg cramps discovered it still made me paranoid and I couldn't stand that anxiety. The one thing I haven't tried is the Ginko. I'm hoping that gives me a new alternative because nothing else seems to do the trick.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. newmom

    I started having horrible leg cramps, day and night, about 10 years ago. Bananas do have a good amount of potassium, but tomatoes actually have more. And I realized that V8 juice has about 10 times the amount of potassium than a banana. I'm not endorsing a product, but look at labels in the supermarket. I drink an 8 ounce glass of V8 a day (low sodium) and I have not had a leg cramp since. In my case, the cramps are congenital. My mother also gets horrible cramps at night as did her mother. My brother gets them too. Try the V8 juice! It's worth a try, right.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jan

    I suffered horribly from muscle cramps and Charley horses and nothing helped – until a doctor at John Hopkins discovered I was seriously low on vitamin D. After some prescription vitamin D, no more cramps! The doctor said that most people that live north of NYC lack vitamin D.

    August 3, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Squid

    I have nightly leg and foot cramps!! This has been going on for over a year. I can't think of anything I did to cause this, but I was told about the quinine, It did help. It didn't cure the problem, but it helped more than anything I had tried before.Now I can't find a source for quinine, – can anyone help me out on this? Please??

    August 3, 2011 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kgotway

      Gin and tonics since tonic water has quinine.

      August 3, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
  43. kgotway

    My family is the poster child of potassium deficiencies. My great grandfather even died from it because it was misdiagnosed as a heart attack. I get leg cramps every few months and for me it does seem to correlate to times when I am not eating bananas or getting potassium through daily vitamins. I am hardly a medical researcher so I cannot say why that is the case with me, but I think I will stick with my tried and true hypothesis.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Cathy W

    They *increase* with age? Hmmm.... I used to get them occasionally (maybe 1-2 x per year, and not even every year) as a teen and young adult, and when I was in college, I figured out that the best way to soothe it was to flex my toes and foot up toward my shin as far as I could make it go, and massage the knot in the calf. That would ease the cramp, but I usually had residual soreness for a day or two after. They decreased in frequency in adult hood, and at this point (I'm 42), I don't think I've had one in 10 or 15 years (maybe longer). I'm glad. They are terribly painful and I'm horrified by the responses from people who get them frequently. My sympathies.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. ng

    Bar of soap under the sheets, two calcium a day, a ton of water, and when I travel quinine tablets. I have had
    severe leg cramps all my life. It is especially bad when I've exercised in the afternoon. This is my regime now
    and it works. If I forget any of this they will come back.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Zach

    Put a bar of Ivory soap under your sheets near your legs as you sleep. You won't get anymore cramps at night. TRY IT!

    August 3, 2011 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Kyle

    Hmm..I've always heard that if you get leg cramps you are not getting enough iodine or you are dehydrated. Guess that isn't true.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Ronnie G

    I had leg cramps almost nightly for years. I don't know, and I don't care what caused them, but they really hurt. I heard about the bar of soap remedy and as dumb as it sounded, I tried it. I have been cramp free for years because of it. Don't know how it works, don't care how it works, but it works.

    August 3, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Sue

    Whenever I get leg cramps, day or night, I try to evaluate the amount of water I drank during the day. Muscle cramping can be an indicator of dehydration. Drink a tall glass or bottle of water, and see if it gives you relief. It always works for me.

    August 3, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. tko

    before i was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes i was getting leg and foot cramps every night. because of the high blood sugar i was very dehydrated and i assumed that was the cause, i'm surprised to hear the research does not support that theory. so much was out of balance with my body during that time, i guess it could have been caused by some other diabetes related problem.

    August 3, 2011 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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