Stop My Mum Cramping!
December 27, 2010 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Hello, I’m asking this question on behalf of my mother who has been suffering from cramp in primarily her legs but also occasionally her hands for 9 years now. The symptoms first began in May 2001 and have gradually increased intensity over time. I'm asking Metafilter as she seems to have run out of other options (I searched for cramps and there didn't seem to be any other answers for this kind of thing)

Since 15th September 2010, as a result of a change in how she was being treated, she has kept a record of how frequently they are occurring and rating their intensity between 1 for threatening to cramp, 2 for mild, 3 for bad, 4 for sever and 5 for excruciating.

She is currently getting cramp approximately daily where 3 is the average rating so there’s a significant amount of pain and discomfort involved.

From conventional medicine, as treatment, she has tried:-

Quinine Bisulphate 300 mg
Dantrolene (Dantrium) 25mg

Neither of these were effective and the doctor advised her that there was nothing else that he could do.

From unconventional medicine, she has tried:-

Nitric Acid 14g tablets
Phyto Cal Mag w/ Boron
Chelated Magnesium 500mg (magnesium amino acid chelate)
Magnesium 250 mg
Magnesium Phosphate
Spectralyte from Physica Energetics

All of these have been ineffective.

She is taking Lisinopril 5mg, Simvastatin 10 mg, folic acid 5mg and aspirin 75mg for atherosclerosis but the cramping symptoms far predate when she started to take statins.

This is in the UK if it matters. She has NHS cover only without private healthcare.

The question is are there any alternative avenues of treatment which have proven successful from any Metafites? Are there other drugs which are more effective that quinine or dantrolene or supplements?
posted by eb98jdb to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What is her blood pressure like? I had severe cramping (once I had a cramp so bad in my calf that I fainted) and saw what seemed like a bazillion doctors before one looked at my bp reading, which was very very low, and told me to simply eat more salt and if that didn't work they'd put me on something to raise it.

The salt worked for me. I put salt on everything now. I haven't had cramps in 3 months now.

I also do take Natural Calm, but inconsistently so I don't think that solved it. It's the only mg my body was able to absorb. I read that most people don't absorb mg supplements. You can tell because if they are not absorbing properly you'll have loose stools.

IANAD and I think it's true cramps have many causes. Low-sodium was mine.
posted by melissam at 7:23 AM on December 27, 2010

Does she stretch and exercise?
posted by cjared at 7:40 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

IANAD. Eating potassium-rich foods can also alleviate cramps; she should be getting about 2000 mg/day. Shortages lead to hypokalemia, which features fatigue, muscle weakness, cramping, respiratory issues and constipation. Oh and high blood pressure. Some antibiotics can lead to hypokalemia, as can vomiting, laxitives and certain herbal teas that contains glycyrrhetinic acid.

Putting a banana (467 mg) on my breakfast cereal every day has really helped me. Other foods higher in potassium include a medium baked potato with skin (721 mg), dried prunes (633 mg/half cup), raisins (598 mg/half cup), orange juice (60 mg/oz), and spinach (419 mg/half cup cooked).
posted by carmicha at 7:43 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

There is a seemingly bizarre home remedy that several people I know, including mother, vouch for. Put a bar of soap in your bed. Even Snopes has yet to debunk it.
posted by kimdog at 7:47 AM on December 27, 2010

This may be obvious, but does she get enough potassium and water? A good way to add potassium is through Morton's Lite Salt--it's half potassium salt, half sodium salt. Potassium supplements can be a little iffy as it's easy to overdose.
posted by schroedinger at 7:47 AM on December 27, 2010

Liquid calcium got rid of my very frequent, very bad calf cramps. I wasn't absorbing the tablet form. I was using the Sisu liquid calcium found in health food stores, no idea if it's still around. I know it also helped an elderly lady with the same problem when she tried it (she was bedridden with them).
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:06 AM on December 27, 2010

I sometimes have problems with cramps - generally just my calf muscles. I make sure I'm hydrated and occasionally take potassium supplements if I'm feeling my muscles getting twitchy.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:40 AM on December 27, 2010

Oh, and since she's on lisinopril - which iirc is a blood pressure recommendation - don't do anything regarding blood pressure or adjusting salt intake without involving the person who prescribed the lisinopril.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:41 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is there a possibility of your mother having hypothyroidism? Before it was diagnosed for me, I suffered from leg cramps everyday, starting in the afternoon, going into the evening and at night. The cramps disappeared completely after I began taking medication for hypothyroidism.
posted by francesca too at 9:16 AM on December 27, 2010

Like francesca too, I had regular cramps prior to my hypothyroid diagnosis. When they start to reoccur on a regular basis, I've found it is an indicator that I need to be seen by my doc again between our regular visits because my medication needs to be adjusted.

Cramps can be caused by several things and trying to treat the cramp isn't going to do anything until you address the problem that's causing this as a symptom.
posted by onhazier at 9:33 AM on December 27, 2010

My mom had agonizing cramps for years because of blood pressure medication. She solved the problem by doing her own research and asking for a different drug, but in the meantime she lost months of her life to pain and stress. Ask the doc if she can take something in a different family of blood pressure medications, as this is a side effect that is often waved aside by the medical community.

And FWIW, nothing helped the cramps until she switched her meds. She tried every conventional and non-conventional treatment she could come up with (and she's a nurse, so she's got the knowledge).

Hope your mum feels better soon. I know what a toll this can take on a person's life.
posted by corey flood at 10:05 AM on December 27, 2010

Is she sure that it is a cramp and not the onset of arthritis pain? Sometimes when people get a new pain for a new reason they mistake it for another kind of pain that they're more familiar with.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:44 PM on December 27, 2010

Response by poster: Hi guys,

There's some really interesting answers here- thanks for this. I've sent them on to my mum to see what she makes of them. I'll let you know what the outcome is.

posted by eb98jdb at 11:32 AM on December 28, 2010

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