My Dad has been complaining of leg cramps lately. He is 66 years old, about 6'6 and is overweight (not obese) Someone told him that it could be a lack of potassium or perhaps some other vitamin. Does anyone know anything about leg cramping?
He is scheduled for a check-up at the doctors next month and will discuss this with him, but last night he had called me and asked me if I could "look it up on the internet"... Obviously, the more you "look-up" when it comes to medicine, the more self-diagnosing you do and the more scary information you see!!!
I have experienced leg cramping and it is just awful. It usually happens when I stand too long or do a lot of walking. I found that stretching really helps. I stretch when I sit at the computer or stand for an extended period of time. Does your Dad spend a lot of time in front of the TV sitting? If he does, that could be a factor. He needs to stretch more. Does he stand on his feet a lot? Proper fitting shoes can also make a big difference. New Balance is supposed to be very supportive and quite comfortable.
I didn't want to post a link but I found this EXCELLENT site full of useful information. See here.
Posts: 5343 | Location: The Motor City | Registered: 06-03-02
Thanks Clare (or EVILBear ) Actually, lately, he's spent alot of time on his feet - my parents are in the process of doing lots of work around the house and while he isn't doing most of it (he used to do that!), believe me, he "supervises" like nobody's business!!! When he's not doing standing though, he spends alot of time watching TV (falling asleep is more like it!)
He definitely needs to do some stretching...he's NOT one for exercise, never has been! He also had a knee replacement a couple of years back, but it's actually doing quite well.
Syndicated newspaper columnist Dr. Paul Donohue recently ran this column (website requires free registration) which I will shamelessly reproduce here:
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What causes leg cramps? They happen to me in bed almost every night. The pain is so bad it always wakes me. -- F.M.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I speak for countless senior citizens. Severe, nocturnal leg cramps blow me out of bed each night. Is relief possible? -- J.M.
ANSWER: A cramp is a sudden, intense and involuntary muscle contraction. Nighttime leg cramps are a common problem of older people. By age 60, one-third suffer from them; by age 80, half have them. Their cause often escapes detection, but a search for some of the more common causes must be made.
Medicines sometimes are their basis. Diuretics (water pills), beta agonists (asthma medicines), cortisone drugs, statins (for cholesterol control), lithium and nifedipine are potential troublemakers.
Kidney failure; diabetes; thyroid gland malfunction; anemia; a deficiency of magnesium, calcium or potassium; and some nerve disorders are other possible causes. However, for most, a cause cannot be found.
Stretching the leg muscles is a prevention everyone can take. Standing three feet from a wall, lean into it by bracing yourself with your hands on the wall. Keep the feet flat on the floor. You should feel a stretch in the calf muscles. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then return to the starting position for a five-second rest. Repeat the procedure five to 10 times, three times a day, and again before going to bed. For safety's sake, have a spotter alongside you to catch you if you are on the verge of tumbling.
Loosen the sheets and blankets. When a person lies on his or her back, tight bedding pulls the foot downward, and that induces a cramp.
If the cramps are relentless, speak with your doctor about the use of quinine. It used to be available over the counter but now requires a prescription, because it can have some serious side effects. Verapamil is another medicine that has eased leg cramps for some.
The pamphlet on restless leg syndrome and nighttime cramps offers additional suggestions. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 306, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./$6.50 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
I would add that if the cramps occur with walking or other leg exercise (claudication) rather than being a bedtime problem, it may be a sign of serious circulation problems.
Sounds like an replay to me of my father's problems. Knee replacement followed by severe leg cramps about a year later. Enter the doctors who come up with all sorts of reasons, Dad goes through a lot of tests, ends up having back surgery....
Everytime the doctors have come up with some definite problem that causes cramps, they actually make the whole problem worse with their treatments. Tell him to lose weight and get exercise.
The soap therapy does work. I have restless leg syndrome and tried it just to see. VelvetVoice, I am glad you brought it up first. I know it sounds crazy and cannot imagine how it works. There is just a calm feeling that comes over the legs when the soap is there. If the soap happens to fall on the floor without me knowing it, I can always tell because the pain comes back. That is the reason I don't think it is the placebo effect.
Originally posted by aminator2002: Tell him to lose weight and get exercise.
Ami - - that's perfect!!! The doctor and every family member has been telling him that for years!! Of course his line is that he's not heavy, just short for his height!! Yeah...might work if he was 5'6 and NOT 6'6!!!
Great answers all - I'm gonna share all this with him (you'd better hide Ami!!!) Thanks guys!
Lydia, don't overlook neurological problems as a cause of the crampings. Remember my situation over 2 years ago...what I thought were innocent cramps turned out to be a peripheral neuropathy. While bannanas and quinine water (tonic water) will certainly help the symptoms temporarily, if they continue it might warrant a visit with a neurologist. Hope this is not the case but just something to think about.
Posts: 9193 | Location: Atlanta, GA, USA | Registered: 06-03-02
Lydia... I know that my Dad wishes now that he would have listened back when he was 68 and able to walk. It's all gone pretty bad over the years and with each year it gets harder and harder to lose weight... now it's virtually impossible for my dad and he really really tries now.
Goodluck to your dad and hopefully all this stuff helps him.
Occasionally, my toes would cramp under . . . when I would eat too much sugar. One night my two ankles cramped up, and I thought that I would crack up or mercifully pass out. I don't know what caused that and the intense pain, but as best as I could, I prayed and got out of the bed and tried to walk.
Be prepared for anything during your sleep: while you think it is impossible, years ago after I first slept on a new mattress, the blubber in my back got caught in my rib cage, but I rolled left and right to lossen it.
Originally posted by aminator2002: Lydia... I know that my Dad wishes now that he would have listened back when he was 68 and able to walk. It's all gone pretty bad over the years and with each year it gets harder and harder to lose weight... now it's virtually impossible for my dad and he really really tries now.
Goodluck to your dad and hopefully all this stuff helps him.
Ami - I told him about all the answers here...he said to say thank you to everyone (cept you haha!!! just kidding, he laughed about the exercise and weight loss...said THAT would cure lots of stuff!!).
He is going to try adding a banana to his diet and is going to the Dr's at the beginning of December too. The one thing he hadn't specifically mentioned was the fact that they'd recently changed his cholesterol meds...and one of the side effects is leg cramps!!! That could very likely be a big part of it!
Thank you all so much for your answers! VERY much appreciated! ~Lydia