Do you have fibromyalgia and suffer from leg cramps or spasms? The kind that propels you screaming from your bed in the middle of the night? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Even if nocturnal charley horses aren’t common for you, there’s surprising info here to discover. Muscle pain, twitching, and twinges aside, this post shares tips on triggers as well as natural remedies — both common and weird.
How many remedies have you tried for your muscle cramps and spasms? I’ve never counted before today. But as I look at the list below, I’ve tried 43!
Which ones are familiar to you?
My Muscle Cramps and Spasms History
Before we get into the remedies to try, let’s take a look at what can contribute to muscle cramps and spasms. I’m somewhat of an expert if I do say so myself.
And, I do.
I’ve been able to rid my body (for the most part) of fibromyalgia pain, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, digestive dysfunction and more. Yet, leg cramps have plagued me on and off for decades.
For 48 years, actually.
So, yes, I have some experience here.
My first memory of them was as a pre-teen when I sat through long rehearsals for a school play. I was one of the king’s children in a high school production of The King and I. We sat for endless hours on the wooden stage floor, barefoot with our legs tucked under us. We weren’t allowed to sit Indian-style but rather with our knees bent and legs folded under us.
This wasn’t a problem for me, usually. But, I remember on several occasions having foot cramps that sent me leaping into the air. The play director wasn’t happy with me. And, it was incredibly embarrassing as I hobbled around the stage trying to get my calves, toes, and the arches in my feet to unkink. My biggest fear was having that happen during a performance.
Thank goodness it never did.
But, that brings me to the potential causes of muscle cramps and spasms.
Leg Cramp & Spasm Triggers and Contributors
This list is everything I know either from first-hand (or foot) experience or from my research on the subject.
- Poor circulation/blood flow/oxygen flow
- Macronutrient imbalances and deficiencies
- Micronutrient imbalances and deficiencies (i.e., Vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, iodine, sodium, chloride, potassium, zinc, etc.)
- Exercise or workout tension (especially in high temperatures)
- Footwear (heels, ill-fitting, new shoes, etc.)
- Excessing standing – especially on hard surfaces
- Excessive sitting/kneeling/squatting (cutting off the circulation behind the knees)
- Sugar intake
- Medication side effects
- Repetitive motion activities
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Heavy metal toxicity (mercury, lead, cadmium, aluminum, etc.)
- Poor posture
I’m sure there are more contributors than what’s listed here, but this should get you started thinking about what may be at the root of your muscle dysfunction.
Leg Cramp & Spasm Stories
I posted a cute and funny kitten picture on my Facebook page the other day about nighttime leg cramps. It quickly became very clear that I’m not alone in this frustration. Leg cramps are a frustrating circumstance for many of us who deal with fibromyalgia (and, of course, also for those who don’t).
Dozens of people shared their painful stories of being catapulted from slumber in pain by leg cramps. I have many of those stories, too. I remember once flying out of bed so violently that I hit the sliding wardrobe doors across the room and knocked them off their tracks. I had a sore shoulder and ribs for weeks after that (not to mention my tender calves).
I learned yesterday that others have injured themselves, too. You won’t believe this next story.
A lovely member of this Rebuilding Wellness community shared that she jumped out of bed in the middle of the night with cramps in both legs. She jumped so fast that she lost her balance and fell — breaking her hip!
For most of us, (thank goodness!), leg cramps don’t require major surgery as it did for this poor soul.
But nonetheless, they’re a pain in the patootie … and everywhere else.
I’ve had muscle cramps and spasms in my toes, feet, ankles, calves, shins, thighs, lower and upper abdomen, forearms, hands, and fingers. I think eye and face twitching is related to this too, but at least that’s not painful.
For decades, my intimate relationship with muscle spasms has led me to research remedies. Until I put it all together for this article, I thought I’d tried absolutely everything under the sun. But I can see that there are a few rocks I hadn’t looked under.
Leg Cramp & Spasm Natural Remedies
Below, I’ve created a compendium of natural remedies to try. They’re listed in no particular order.
(*I’ve marked the very few that I haven’t tried personally with an asterisk.)
Each remedy has merit to some degree. What works for one person may not work for another. And, it’s interesting to note that some remedies work at some phases in your life, but don’t at others.
There was a period of several years where I had no muscle cramps at all after removing packaged foods from my diet. I thought I fixed the problem. But, alas, they returned. However, they’ve never been as bad as they once were. I only have them occasionally. And, I can usually pinpoint why I’ve had them.
Natural Leg Cramp and Spasm Remedies
- Magnesium, potassium, sodium, turmeric, or calcium in foods, supplements, supplements/foods/oils, etc.
- Iodine supplements (to support thyroid function)
- Pickle juice
- Mustard, yellow
- Onion/garlic juice
- Water (proper hydration)
- Salt (actually licking a bit of sea salt from your palm)
- Baking soda in water
- Tonic water (quinine)
- Acupuncture *
- Aqua therapy
- Rubbing alcohol
- OTC cramp remedies such as Hyland’s Leg Cramp formula
- Rebounding (mini trampoline – good for the lymph system)
- Stretching/restorative yoga
- Wearing higher quality/ better fitting flat-soled shoes
- Epsom salt baths/soaks
- Body and foot massage
- Avoiding processed/packaged foods
- Avoiding excitotoxins (aspartame, MSG, Cysteine, casein, etc.)
- Avoiding sulfites
- EFT Tapping
- Pinching the upper lip (during a spasm)
- Pinching the skin between the thumb and forefinger (during a spasm)
- Placing a bar or sliver of soap in the bed underneath the sheets (near the feet)
- Apple cider vinegar
- EMMETT Technique *
- Deep breathing
- Prayer / Meditation
- TENS unit stimulation (various devices)
- Heating pads
- Cold compresses
- Infrared heating pad
- Elevating the legs/feet before bed
- DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) *
- Body mechanics exercises (improving musculoskeletal posture)
- Foot/heel (plantar fasciitis) exercises
- Essential oils used as rubs (i.e., clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, peppermint, black pepper, juniper, rosemary, thyme, frankincense, ginger, marjoram, German chamomile, vetiver, ginger, eucalyptus, sandalwood, turmeric, clary sage, Helichrysum, etc.)
- Blackstrap molasses
- Bedtime Golden Milk *
- Chamomile tea
- Sleeping with tennis shoes/sneakers on (not kidding, this actually works for me)
- Far-infrared sauna *
- Sleep aids such as special knee pillows, back pillows, and fuzzy socks
- Stops Leg and Foot Cramps *
It’s important to note that I’m not affiliated with, nor compensated from, any product listed above.
Whew! That’s quite a list.
UPDATE: Want one more? Let’s make this a list of 50 suggestions (so far)! I’ve recently discovered a new product that I believe will be a staple in my leg cramp arsenal of remedies. I was contacted by Mike at Magnesium Lotion and was so impressed with his easy-to-use lotion that I asked to become an affiliate. This magnesium lotion blend has very few (but very deep-healing) ingredients and is more of a silky solid consistency rather than a creamy lotion. Most importantly, it’s non-itchy, non-stinging, and non-burning. Wonderful! Here’s my affiliate link – check them out for yourself. MagnesiumLotion.
How many have you tried? Do you have additional treatments to add? I’m more than happy to update this list as we go. Share your comments and experiences here so we can all benefit.
Here’s to a good night’s rest, so you can sleep cramp-free … just like a baby. Zzzzzzzzzzz….