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

There can be plenty of causes. Sometimes dehydration may be the cause. I used to get cramps when I drank too much. Sometimes not enough of a certain suppliment. Sometimes calcium will help. Sometimes bannanas will. It is important to ask your doctor if they continue, they could mean something serious.

Clincal Evidence, which systematically searches the medical literature for reliable evidence of the benefits and harms of therapies for specific conditions, says, at http://www.clinicalevidence.com/ceweb/SearchServlet?searchTerm=cramps, “We have evaluated the treatments for Leg cramps and categorised them according to the evidence on their benefits and harms.” I’d tell you what they found out but my hard copy is at the office, my password doesn’t work, and I’m too cheap to pay for immediate access.

My massage therapist says calcium; pop a Tums before bed.
A Sweet Old Boy at the Shrine Club says a tablespoon of honey before bed works for him.

You guys rock. Thank you. AskNott [should I ask?] What’s a ‘Tums’?

That doesn’t seem to make sense, eh? What I meant was, I used to get them when I drank too much booze - thus causing dehydration…

hehehe :slight_smile: I got it, Khadaji, thanks.

My father in law took** Quine** tablets, about the only thing he found that would help.

Stuyguy, I know that remedy you’re talking about. I used to use it for restless legs, but they had to change the formula because the govt. wouldn’t allow quinine to be sold OTC anymore. Now of course, it doesn’t work. My doc has at times prescribed some drugs used for Parkinson’s and they work for a while, but have to be changed periodically. I don’t know if the restless legs are the same cause as leg cramps (it depends on the type of cramp), but the latest research shows that some part of the brain is misfiring (genetic as it runs in families). My son gave me a vibrating body-length mat and except for a couple of relapses, after using it every night for a couple of months I no longer have the restless legs and don’t even have to use the mat anymore. Probably won’t be permanent, but God what a relief to be able to sleep.

Tums is a brand name for an over-the-counter (non-prescription) calcium supplement. More at this site.

Wooo. Thanks again. Thanks **Fish **o o o o o o o I don’t think we have Tums here.

Ok, I am coming from a different direction. Don’t want to scare you, but that’s my experience.

I had leg cramps and leg tingling for years. Nobody was sure what it was, and what to do. Until I had a (really, really, really) bad herniated disk. Then everybody was “oh, of course, the MRI shows that your lowe back vertabrae have deterioated for years now, and the disk was pushing against the nerves for a long time, which caused the cramps and tingling”.

My advise, in addition to everything else: Do lower back execises. I am working my back now only 5 minutes a day, and no problems any more. This is good in any case, and does not do any harm whatsoever in case your back is not the source.


Tums are a brand name antacid sold here in the States. They are often also recommended as a calcium supplement.

Dorfl beat me to it, but I just wanted to say that in my case too they are caused by lower back problems, nothing to do with potassium, calcium, or dehydration.

If I stretch my back wrongly I can trigger them off at any time, and it seems easier to do this while lying down. So it does happen occasionally while I’m asleep, maybe once a year or so. It’s very disorienting to suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with such pain.

I also wanted to agee with the earlier post that says you can fend them off, if you feel them coming, by pointing your toes up and stretching the muscle before the cramp sets in. Doesn’t work when you’re asleep, obviously.

Out of curiosity–who?

I have to clear something up here:

I’ve experienced two different kinds of leg cramps in my life.

The first kind is a dull but very powerful whole-leg ache that lasts for hours or even days. Not a charley-horse, like this thread seems to be addressing, but something more related to growing pains. I never understood these, but I haven’t gotten them since puberty.

The other kind is what we’re talking about here, the horrible charley-horse spasm that leaves just as quickly as it started.

Anybody have experience with the first kind? I’d like to be able to help my family members if they get them.

The first thing you should do is TALK TO A DOCTOR.

The most well-intended advice offered on a Message Board is (at best) hooey. “I took a teaspoon of hydrogenated quinine”, “I took anarobic phtalium supplements”, “Crystal healing worked for me,” “I used a voodoo doll and some pins” is all bullshit. OK, OK, perhaps those tricks worked for YOU, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work for everyone.

Nighttime leg cramps could be caused by any number of things, including serious stuff like lower back problems, “restless leg syndrome” (a sleep disorder), etc.

GO TO YOUR DOCTOR FIRST. If all those other things are ruled out and you want to try vitamin supplements or potassium or crystal healing or whatever else Message Board friends suggest, great, be my guest.

Sheeeesh. A Message Board is NOT a place to get medical advice.