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Tips for Managing Muscle Spasms & Cramping

MS is often associated with a variety of pain syndromes including both acute and chronic types of pain.  Primary pain results from disease-related damage to the Central Nervous System.  Although secondary pain syndromes are not directly attributed to MS lesions, symptoms can be equally frustrating.

One of the most discussed symptoms in the MultipleSclerosis.Net community is spasticity, which includes muscle spasms or cramps.  We decided to ask our Facebook community how they deal with muscle cramps. Here’s what they had to share:

Food & drink

  • Eating rainbow vegetables of colors help (Like green, orange, yellow, red). I mix cooked Jasmine rice with Sweet potato, sweet carrot, spinach, red yellow and orange peppers, garlic cloves. You can use canned, just be sure to drain the juice because of the preservatives.
  • Muscle cramps can be helped by adding potassium: Melon is a good source. This organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar made into a drink is also very helpful
  • Eat bananas and broccoli 
  • Potassium, hydrate with an electrolyte. I exercise outside in the heat quite a bit, so I make sure I have Gatorade, or Nuun. Hammer makes a product called Endurolytes as well.
  • Drink healthy teas. 
  • Gatorade (as long as the cramps are not bad), soma for bad cramping 
  • Stay hydrated! 
  • Pickle juice is great…Old natural remedy
  • I have had severe leg cramps and drinking tonic water mixed with juice seems to help!
  • I have horrible muscle cramps, and my new miracle drug is tonic water. It is the quinine in the tonic water that makes them go away. Diet tonic is horrible, go for the real stuff.
  • For the Dysesthesias that can involve a girdle band-like pressure, drink any hot liquid. This causes me severe sudden pain and this is the only way that I can get relief but it helps instantly 

Stretching & Massage 

  • Stretching exercises 
  • Regular walking
  • I just have to put my foot, of the limb that’s cramping flat, and stretch.
  • My balance is so off so yoga isn’t possible so I made up my own type of yoga. It helps a lot…and sometimes a warm bath helps too.
  • I get up and do push-ups with my feet while standing in the doorway to my bathroom. I also add arm push ups just because I’m there and it’s a perfect time to do it…
  • For bad pain make a massage oil from 2 tea bags and 1/2 cup of canola oil that has been sitting in the sun for a day either out-side or on windowsill. You can use whatever teabags you want. For pain I like peppermint.

Treatment 

  • Flexeril 
  • For muscle spasms the Avonex shot I get seems to tame them
  • I take magnesium twice a day; it has helped quite a bit!
  • Started on muscle relaxers and they are gone for the most part.
  • Cannabis helps 
  • Dr gave me a prescription for medicine called Zanaflex and Baclofen and at bedtime Klonopin
  • My doctor just put me on Valium since mine were waking me up all night.
  • I take a muscle relaxer every 4hrs and at night 

Lifestyle & meditation

  • When the body says enough. Then it is enough. If you do not get it done today it will still be there tomorrow.
  • Get enough rest to prevent cramps 
  • Deep breathing cut them out completely for me. Concentrating on the place where the muscle is cramping (especially the legs), deep in breath, hold it, slow out breath, repeat as necessary.
  • I just meditate and they usually drift away.

Hot/cold therapy

  • When I do get cramps in my legs and hands heat packs are the only things that help. I have several of those microwave bean-bags
  • Don’t let your legs get cold in bed – Keep them cozy and warm
  • I use Voltaren cream and ice packs and heating pads alternate them it helps a lot
  • An ice pack to the area. I have those refreeze-able ice packs that can wrap around my leg. Within a short time the cramp is gone.

Do you experience painful muscle cramps? If so, how do you manage them? Please share any helpful tips in the comments section below! 

Comments

  • bcaseySPMS
    8 months ago

    Tried Magnesium (prescribed from neuro) didnt stop them. You know the ones from your groin all the way down to past your knee on the inside of your legs that wake you up in major pain and cant lift your foot off the ground, mine are due to my core temp rising from sleeping or the dog snuck up by my legs while I was asleep. “Natures Calm” which is a magnesium supplement that fizzes up like alka seltzer. With in about 15 to 30 seconds the cramp is gone. I keep the packets in my desk, glove box etc. About an inch of warm water and let it fizz up…..presto gone. I have also noticed if it doesn’t fizz it doesn’t seem to work. Hope this helps someone out there.

  • zenhead
    2 years ago

    I’ve run thru all those suggestions, I even have a baclofen pump, and nothing works. I still get very painful and debilitating charlie-horse cramps every night, and often during the day as well. I’ve been all over the interwebs and talked to numerous doctors, and no one seems to know what this is, much less how to treat it. Very frustrating.

  • bcaseySPMS
    8 months ago

    Try “Natures Calm” I get it t super supplements, no side affects and almost instant relief for me. Sometimes I have to do two packets in about an inch of warm water.. I refuse to do most the drugs the Drs want me to try and I have tried most of them over the years. Side affects worse than symptoms. You know your own body better than anyone. I am down to 1 infusion every 6 months, lots of vitamins. Good Luck!

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    That does sound frustrating @zenhead I’m sorry to hear that nothing has been helping. We’re thinking of you, and please keep us updated. Best, Margot, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • sg25
    2 years ago

    I found that calcium stopped the muscle cramps. I take a pill morning and night and also magnesium at night. Been working for me for years. I was diagnosed on 1994.

  • Calma :)
    3 years ago

    I have found that keeping my calves warm at night helps prevent spasms. Flannel pyjama pants, warm socks that cover the ankles, and leg warmers – they work for me. Yes, I do look quite ridiculous, but being woken by a leg spasm is worse than looking funny. It’s dark, anyway, and the rest of my family is sleeping and not watching what I wear in bed.

  • Calma :)
    3 years ago

    Cannabis ointment! Works for me within two minutes to stop my spasm, and has no psychoactive side effects like cannabis pills or smoking do. The ointment I bought at our local dispensary contains sage and lavender as well – good to cover the smell. Make sure all ingredients are organic. What you put on your skin goes right in your body – see nicotine patches.

  • debbieheim
    5 years ago

    I still get severe leg cramps even with Celebrex (NSAID), Lortab (hydrocodone -opioid), Flexeril (muscle relaxant), and Avonex. Some things that help me get to sleep and tame the leg cramps for a while are: 100 mg.Gabapentin (makes me too “loopy” or I could also take it during the day), ice packs wrapped around my calves and held in place by Velcro leg wraps and/or Lidoderm© Patches (dosage is a maximum of 3 patches at one time, 12 hours on, then 12 hours off. I also have a topical pain cream which doesn’t seem to work as well which was prescribed by my MS doctor – it is a compound: Ketamine5%, Amitriptyline 4%, Gabapentin 4% -apply 1-2 grams to affected area 3 to 4 times daily. I have both a pain management doctor (Lortab, Celebrex, Flexeril, Lidoderm© patches), as well as a neurologist(Avonex, Gabapentin, topical compound cream), Dr. Bianca Weinstock-Guttman, who only treats MS patients, at the very well known Jacobs Neurological Center in Buffalo, New York.
    Still, often, my leg cramps are unbearable, and I can’t sleep without taking .5 mg. of Lorazepam (Ativan).
    I don’t ride long distances in cars because of leg cramps, but I sure do agree with Nicolina when she says she is very thankful for cruise control! I couldn’t be without it!

  • sg25
    2 years ago

    I can’t seem to get anyone to continue the lorazepam that I’ve used for years to help me get to sleep. I had a wonderful neurologist who only worked with MS in Houston. I have moved to Galveston and changing docs. It is really a problem for me! I don’t drive at all anymore, so couldn’t continue to go to Houston. I use Avonex and it has worked well for me. Will be seeing a new neurologist but not until June. I’m hoping he will resolve this issue for me

  • Margot moderator
    2 years ago

    I hope the new neurologist will be able to help @sg25 – thank you so much for sharing. Do let us know how it goes in June! Best, Margot, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Rome
    5 years ago

    Keep hydrated. I drink a glass of water before bed. You may have to get up in the night but it reduces the calf/shin cramps drastically. If one does come, it’s not as severe and you can flex your foot pointing upward as far as you can bend and the cramp should loosen up.

  • Nicolina
    6 years ago

    does anyone have recommendations for when legs cramp while driving? i have issues with ITB area of right leg…

    very thankful for cruise control

  • north-star
    5 years ago

    If only your leg is cramping, I suggest considering hand controls. Learning early, before you absolutely have to drive that way, makes the transition much easier. My car is drivable either way so other family members can use it. I learned with an occupational therapist in my own car after a professional evaluation recommended by my neurologist. One of her patients had a muscle spasm and she drove through a window into a grocery store.

    If you’re concerned that the evaluators might turn you in, they can’t communicate with anyone about their recommendations (patient confidentiality). I almost waited too long! Start before your license expires.

  • BonnieB
    5 years ago

    Hello Nicolina

    I keep a small but thick pillow on the driver’s seat and put it under my right leg (only) when driving. It eliminates all right leg lifting which triggers severe leg spasms for me. Can’t drive more than a block or two without it.

    Cruise control is no help for me now because I don’t drive long distances due to MS fatigue problems. Those longer drives often triggered bad cramps and spasms in my pedal-using foot, but if that happens on my short drives I pull over to massage and stretch my legs and feet a few minutes, the longer the better. That works for a while.

    Also, if I remember to take it (memory, ay!), I use a homeopathic leg cramps remedy with quinine that helps a lot without affecting alertness rather than my prescription Baclofen. I should keep some in the car, thanks for reminding me!

    Hope this helps!

  • Suzanne
    6 years ago

    I handle MS muscle spasms in 2 ways: I ask my husband to massage the area and if that doesn’t help I have a piece of brownie that was made with medically prescribed marijuana, which is legal in my state. I also try to stay hydrated to prevent spasms.

  • MSdoesnthaveme
    6 years ago

    I actually do some sort of exercise ie.. Yoga/Stretching or get on my Elliptical. They all help a bunch. I heard that Cannibus helps a lot as well.

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