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Irene asked...

Tags: foot care , muscles

Can I control troublesome leg and foot cramps at night using diet and/or herbs? I have been told a magnesium supplement might help but another source told me this has been debunked.

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The Answer

Leg and foot cramps at night are a common but very painful and uncomfortable condition. Many cases are idiopathic (of unknown cause) but sometimes they are secondary to another issue such as exercise, a side effect of medication or liver problems.

If you regularly suffer with the cramps it would be a good idea to discuss them with your GP in case they feel the need to investigate a possible cause. The underlying cause could then be treated appropriately.

However, as if in most cases there is not an obvious cause, the usual treatments are; exercise (both to prevent and use during an attack) and use of pain killers to treat tender muscles after the cramping has passed. Doctors occasionally prescribe quinine if they feel that the benefits to the patient outweigh the risks.

Unfortunately scientific evidence to back up the use of magnesium for leg cramps, other than if they are occurring during pregnancy, is lacking. Recent studies which have collated information from several different trials looking at the use of magnesium in leg cramps, have concluded that it does not appear to be effective in the general population suffering with nocturnal leg cramps.

I have also been unable to find any reliable evidence to back up the use of any herbal remedies or other supplements for this condition.

Our factsheet on leg cramps provides information on exercises that may help you to manage your symptoms.

I really hope that you are able to find a way forward in dealing with the cramps.

Answered by Health at Hand nurses.


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