[Nightly] Leg cramps. What causes it? What to do about it?

I’ve tried the exercise stretching every night, before going to bed. I’ve tried putting my legs higher, in bed. I’ve tried warm baths. I’ve tried ice-packs. I’ve tried massage, I even tried putting a bar of soap under my feet. :rolleyes: Nothing helps.

I lose a lot of sleep.

And what causes it? Years may go by without a cramp and suddenly there are days and days when I go AAAAA, in the middle of the night.

Anyone? Thanks.

I was told by my Anatomy teacher that the best way to avoid muscle cramps is to snack on bananas, pretzels and milk before exercising - or bed, in your case. Muscles depend on potassium, sodium and calcium to… uh… (mumble mumble it’s been a while since Anatomy/Physiology) but at any rate, your muscles need those to work optimally. You might want to try taking some supplements a couple of hours before bedtime and see if that helps.

You may need to drink more water. If you drink lots of soft drinks or coffee, you really should make an extra effort to drink water.

I’ve heard potassium suplements will help. But you can also raise the head of your bed (place some wooden blocks under the headboard). Raising your legs higher would have the opposite effect, I would think. That is what worked for my SO’s elderly father when he was having bad leg cramps, we raised the head of the bed about 4".

I’ll ditto what the others have said about potassium and calcium and staying adequately hydrated.

I’ve had these on occasions — most frequently during pregnancy. I did learn a trick to lessen the force of them to some extent.

Usually when they happened, I would wake up, and know that within seconds it was going to feel as if some one had reached into my leg, ripped out my calf muscle, and tied it in a knot.

During that brief instant when you know it is going to happen, but has not yet happened, you need to straighten your leg, flex your foot, and hold it. (That is, point your toes up toward your knee, and point your heel down.) Hold it tight; you will feel the muscle still attempting to knot itself up, but if you keep your foot flexed tightly it won’t be able to. This may last a minute or so, and then you will feel the force subsiding, and you can relax it a bit. You’ll still feel some discomfort, but nothing like the agonizing pain when it is able to get its full grip.

Good luck with this.

Bananas are a good source of potassium, another one is those low sodium salts, they tend to have potassium chloride in them (but check before you buy). You could substitute that for ordinary salt in your cooking for a while and see if it helps.

Again with the bananas? :rolleyes: But yes, they do work.

During the summer I volunteer as a cook for a drum & bugle corps - long day on your feet. When I would crawl into the bus bunk at night, my legs would cramp up. Started eating a daily banana, leg cramps went away.

That’s an interesting observation you make. I used to get nighttime leg cramps several times a year, but since I gave up pop a while back I haven’t had a single one. I’m still not much for bananas though…

I suffer from these, too. Bananas, stretching, and hydration are all good things to try, but if they don’t work for you, talk to your MD about taking quinine. Mine have totally disappeared since I started taking it. He also recommends calcium, so I have added that recently, but the quinine was key for me.

Brynda (too lazy to log out and retype this, so Rick gets the post count)

I had those real bad around age 12, and my daddy taught me to leap out of bed and dance around as soon as I feel my muscles cramping. It rarely happens anymore thanks to potassium supplements and bananas, but when it does I’ve got it down to such an art that I can leap up in the middle of the night, dance like a fool, then lay right back down and fall asleep without missing a beat.

Thanks for all the tips. ::making notes:: I’ll try them.

Mississippienne, Believe it or not, but dancing like a fool in the middle of the night, is not something I look forward to. :wink:

Thanks, all.

Here is a sure and proven remedy. Just drink a bottle of Tonic Water which contains Quinine. Believe me, it works very well. My doctor put me on the Tonic Water regimen to cure my leg cramps. Try it! It really works.

The key for me is wearing loose socks to bed. I just find old ones that don’t have any tension left, but you can buy some without elastic at medical supply stores (they are used by diabetics to keep your feet warm but not constrict and leave pattern marks.)

I have chronic leg cramps in my left calf. This acts up when I’m dehydrated, low on electrolytes, or tired, or a combination of the three. I’ve used all of the remedies suggested and they all work to some degree, but the best remedy is prevention. When exercising, particularly for long periods in the heat, I drink a dilute solution of Gatorade, which provides water and electrolyte replacement. I have ridden 100 miles in very warm temperatures without a problem.

Bananas are also good. A couple of years ago after a grueling mountain bike race I started cramping up in a major and excruciating way not only in my calves but my thighs and even my back! Fortunately, a pretzel vendor was standing by. I order a pretzel and told him to smother the thing in salt. This worked!

I’ve taken quinine pills for cramps as well.

You think leg cramps are bad? I once had a severe, acute cramp in my shoulder that hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up!

Okay, weird anecdote here, and something I hadn’t even thought about. I, too, occasionally get the terrible calf cramps. Luckilly, they haven’t happened recently. I began thinking back as I read this thread, and recalled when I once had the similar cramping throught my entire body, leading to temporary paralysis (scary damn thing, that.). When did it happen? When I was about a day away from dying due to potassium loss. So, there may be good evidence for this potassium thing. (And let me tell ya, it is SO not a way you want to die.)

Potassium and Sodium will be good to support the nervous system conduction of signals telling your muscles to stop contracting. Calcium deficiencies prevent muscle contraction (but more likely will only cause your body to leach calcium from your bones). It’s important to remember that taking an excess of any of these ions can cause severe harm. What most likely is happening is your body is lacking the cellular ATP necessary to release the thin/thick filament binding associated with muscle contraction and allow the muscle to relax. Maintaining a sufficient amount of sugars and other minerals (read: electrolytes) will help with this problem. Really the best recomendation would be some gatorade believe it or not. Hope it helps.

Magnesium is another important mineral. I get leg cramps if I don’t take a magnesium supplement every few days.

I will second quinine, having had occasional leg cramping while on dialysis. The staff recommended quinine. You may wish to consult a physician to be certain there isn’t something more serious that needs his attention, though, 'cos you just never know.

Wow. What a lot of cramp sufferers. I got a shopping list full of remedies. Thanks again, all. Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the night-cramps bite.

I used to work at a small ad agency that handled a leg cramp remedy. The stuff was essentially quinine sulfate and vitamin e. Most users claimed remarkable positive results; a minority had lesser or no relief.

I have no idea if the stuff is still on the market, but before you’re tempted to try it I would suggest you buy the ingedients separately and make your own “cocktail” (consult the premixed remedy label for the right proportions). The stuff we peddled was way more expensive than the raw ingredients could be had for.