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Calf cramps

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
Hello everyone, i am a 24 year old and am new to the site and just had a couple of questions i hope someone can answer for me.

First off, i was diagnosed with a herniated disc over a month ago in my L4-L5 region and had some spinal stenosis resulting from it. The disc herniated on the right side and has impinged my L5 nerve root. Also according to an SEMG I have lots of inflammation around it and that it is also irritating the S1 nerve root.

My concern is that yes i do get some back pain, but my biggest complaint is the cramping/tightness/twitching in my calves, but more specifically my left calf? My right leg is pretty messed up too but i can feel that stiffness through the whole leg. I get frequent achy/cramping pains in both legs and pain around my knees, but i want to know if anyone has ever heard of my issue before?

It is possible to have symptoms on the opposite side of the herniation? Should i be worried about something else? Im worried about the twitching too, i get it throughout both legs but it seems constant in my left calf along with the cramps :? . I have no known weakness just a lot of discomfort from standing too long or walking.

Thank you for your time and i hope someone can shed some light on my situation!!


  • I had similar problems. My MRI's indicated that the left should have been more effected/but once my NS ordered the flexion extension xrays it became clear that the instability was the real problem, not the herniations.



    ps/WELCOME :D
  • I mean, the excruciating, toe curling, leg contorting, wake you from a sound sleep screaming type of pain... I tried everything. From calf stretches, to walking more, climbing steps.... I couldn't figure out if I was dehydrated, if it was a result of the nerve damage, or - I even thought it may have been a side effect from my medications. I'd mention it at my PM visit every month, but it was never addressed.

    Finally, I started back drinking my orange juice in the mornings again. Or at least pineapple juice, or a banana. ANYTHING with potassium. Now I am 80% better. Less instances of cramping, and less intense cramping.

    Try potassium. Let me know if that works out for you!

    If it does, I'll collect my fee. If not... well, I don't have malpractice insurance. :SS

    Seriously - hope this helps you. Do keep us posted, okay?

  • Hey Jeaux,

    My cramps dont seem as bad as yours but they are still really annoing. I feel my calf just randomly stiffen up, and when i get it to relax it starts twitching or spasming im not sure if it is actually a twitch it just seems like the muscle is "bubbling" or something.

    Something that might help for you is magnessium. I started taking magnessium and it seems to have helped, that and maybe the combination of my spinal decompression treatments, but after i get done with the treatments my legs are as stiff as bricks for the rest of the day. They loosen up the next day and thats when i get the random cramping and twitching.

    I still dont understand why its occuring on the opposite side of my herniation, that and the twitching makes me worry that something more serious is going on like als, but ive always been a big hypocondriac.
  • Hey to you all, and greeting from New Zealand. I had a spinal fusion on L5/S1 almost 3 months ago now. I had spasms in my left calf muscle before surgery and now they are back worse than ever. Calf cramps and spasms waking me during the night and they get worse in the morning. This also happens to my left lower hamstring. The spasms in my calf extend down to my ankle and up to the back of the knee. Spoken to my surgeon and doctor but get no solution except for Norflex, which dries out my gums and mouth. Not an option. Tried magnesium and have heard that the body won't process magnesium without potassium....If anyone has a solution, please let me know. After 18months of not being able to walk or sit, 2 microdisectomys and then the fusion my body has had enough. Coming off Amitrip and gabapentin almost killed me........Thanks for your time and look forward to hearing from anyone who has gone through the same.
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    to the same symptoms Jeaux. I read about lack of potassium, poor hydration, etc... and addressed it accordingly. Last night I had the killer of all leg cramps
    throughout the night into the morning until I got out of bed. I have severe OA
    almost everywhere including my spine, I've had a lami done to my lower back
    and a major fusion to my c-spine. The symptoms come and go with no set pattern. I've talked it over with my PCP, Rheumy, and others but they don't seem to have an answer either. Any more suggestions?
  • Potassium definitely helps, I also take a calcium & magnesium supplement daily. I swear if I miss a day, the calf cramps come back, and they have woken me up from a dead sleep. Really annoying. Been going on since I re-herniated L5-S1.
  • that can cause the cramping is walking differently to compensate for the back pain. You can get pain and cramping in all sorts of strange areas from that. Also becareful taking potassium if you are taking any meds for the heart or have any type of heart condition. If so, consult with your doc first.
  • To quote Jeaux "the excruciating, toe curling, leg contorting, wake you from a sound sleep screaming type of pain... " I have done it all, I have the intervertable disc lesion L4/5, I am just recovering from C5/6 decompression and fusion. I am 70 now and the lower back started when I was 18, and hasn't ever stopped.

    This morning I can barely walk as both calves are so stiff and painful from the last few days of cramps.

    When I try to get out of a car, pick something up off the floor, go to sleep, it all seems to be an invitation for another hair raising cramp.

    I do drink two litres of water, I have Caltrate, I eat Bananas, no one seems to understand.

    I see this is a very old post so guess I will get filed in the archives.
  • You did respond to a very old post but your response makes it like it's a new post now.

    This is the first time I have read Jeaux's words about nighttime calf muscle cramps but I couldn't have said it better! I herniated a lumbar disc in my mid-20's and have had those excruciating calf cramps ever since. The last few of years I've started having the same kind of cramps in my back and inner thigh muscles and they happen during the daytime--triggered by simple things like you describe. Have been told the cramps are caused by stenosis and I do stretching exercises (knees to chest while lying on floor) to give those lumbar nerves some needed space. It does help but I also have quinine capsules always handy for the times when the thigh muscles cramp up and won't snap out of it. If it weren't for the quinine, I'd be a screaming idiot, lol.

    Thanks for bringing up this seldom talked about symptom of stenosis. :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Thank you for your reply Inch, Yes, I have had the cramps in the left calf since I was 18, and a wonderful old doctor told me it was to do with my back. Of course fifty years ago they wouldn't operate as they said I would end up in a wheelchair.

    I too have the thigh and back spasms. My lumbar area fees as though it goes from ) shape and tries to be (.

    I have tried quinine but they didn't help me at all.

    Maybe the next step will be surgery on the lumbar area, I really didn't want to have to do that but I have to do something. 50 years + is too much.
  • I'll say, 50 years is too much pain! Do what you need to do to help yourself. I just hope someone can offer you some options. Have you had an MRI and evaluation of your spinal problems? Are you under the care of an ortho or neuro? Tell us more about your condition and what's been done for you so far.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Thanks Inch, Two weeks ago I had a decompression and fusion of C5/6. That was done by a neurosurgeon and he has said he would like to see an MRI of my lower back. That sounds a bit as if he thinks my problems are coming from there also, but, my GP just shrugs his shoulders when I mention my cramps.

    I will see the Neurosurgeon on 1st April and will get a referral for the MRI.

    I am reluctant to do the same again, but I guess if it will help!

    As a back is so much bigger than a neck, I wonder if it would be more painful? I know that sounds silly but I would like to know.

  • I get this in both legs too. Particularly in the morning as I am beginning to wake and move my legs. I also get spasms in my lower back.

    I have tried potasium, magnesium (in a bath of Epsom salts) drinking lots of water, lots of walking and stretching. I think that it is all caused by the stenosis in my spine and nerve roots.

    I am having surgery on 19th March, so I hope that once things have settled down from the op, things will get better.
  • Hi Jellyhall,

    Thank you so much for writing. I could well be reading about myself when I read your post. I have some Myelopathy as well. I will hope you give us an update of your surgery when you go home. If it helps as much as my cervical surgery did, then you will be extremely happy. I knew immediately I was fully awake that my arm and shoulder were completely better. I must say the surgery wasn't near as daunting as I worried about. I was expecting it to be like orthopaedic surgery, which is always very painful. I was only having Endone and Panadals to help me, no injections were needed at all.

    Good Luck to you and please remember to let us know how you get on.

    Ann Willis,

  • for your good wishes and helpful comments letting me know how affective your cervical surgery was at dealing with your problems.

    I hope to be on here after my surgery with lots of positive comments that will encourage others.
  • Jelly I am wondering how you are getting on, I am hoping your results will be as instant as mine were. And I hope no more spasms or cramps.

    I am holding my breath till I hear what you have to say, I am just getting worse with the cramps.

    You would be amazed at the reaction I am having on people who know me well, plus doctors who have only seen me once or twice. One doctor said they should have had a before and after photo of me. I do seem to have a lot less wrinkles, and I am thinking more clearly with crosswords etc. I guess pain has a lot of effect on people. :H
  • Since my L5-S1 discectomy nearly 2 years ago, I get a lot of cramps in my calf. I get those horrific ones that wake you, screaming from a sound sllep. I also get irritating twitches "bubbling" as one poster described.
  • Jenny I am so sad to hear that. My surgery so far has only been on C6/7 and I got a hugely good result from that. It was impinging on my spinal cord and my left arm was severely affected. I had hoped that all spinal surgery would be like that.

    You poor girl, you are so young and caring for your four beautiful children. How on earth do you manage?

    I am going around the bend with my cramps, but you know what they are like. I have trouble walking the next day as the muscle is so sore then.

    I also get terrible spasms in my lumbar area. It is as if my back is trying to go from the normal curve ")" to something like "(", do you follow? Did you have that too?

    I will see the neurosurgeon on Thursday for a check up from the surgery I have had, he has to be pleased with me as I think everything is good.

    Do you think it was from the discectomy that you get the cramps, or do you think maybe you need it for another of your disc bulges?

    I see you are on line,

    Ann Willis
  • I've posted a thread called Jellyhall is over the hill which has news of my surgery.

    I'm delighted to say the my anticipation of what the surgery would be liked, made it seen not nearly so bad.
    I did need a transfusion, but it wasn't a big deal for me.
    The surgeon worked on 3 levels instead of the expected one level. I was happy with that, as I had wondered about the degenerated discs eitherside of my spondylolisthesis.

    I go to have my 13 staples out tomorrow morning.
    My symptoms in my legs have almost completely gone, although I do still get some slight switching in my lower legs. The cramps and spasms are gone!

    I am very hopeful that this op has been successful. I feel glad that I went ahead with surgery.

    How are you getting on?
  • I am so pleased it is all working so well for you and already. That is the thing with it I think, I knew the next morning that my arm had normal movement and was not tingling etc.

    I presume you are home, how long were you in the hospital?

    Now I will go and have a look at your thread, if I can find it. I am not the best navigator yet. No, I can't find it. I went to your own page thinking you might have a list of posts that I could follow it up from. I am pretty hopeless, it comes with old age.

    Ann Willis.
  • You did find my post.
    I was in hospial for 4 nights (1 less than planned)
    I am quite excited about seeing the surgeon tomorrow, although also quite nervous about having the 13 staples removed.

    Just off for a short walk down the road in the spring sunshine.
  • Staples honestly don't hurt, I had more than 50 down my tummy a couple of years ago, and I didn't yelp once.

    I want you to tell me when you get back, that now you believe me,
  • I feel less anxious now.
    I'll let you know how I get on
  • Ann, your description of the lumbar spasms/ cramps feeling like they are changing the shape of the curve of your spine is just what I USED to get.

    Not had it since my surgery. :-)
  • You are doing so well, it was only about six or seven days when you went for a little walk. And I can certainly understand it would be uncomfortable to sit and type.

    I was totally amazed when we thought it was you writing your notes after the surgery and I was actually relieved to know it was your hubby. I was thinking you would over do it.

    And yes, I do want to hear how you get on with the staples. A breeze.
  • Hello all,
    YES. i too have had the "wake you up in the middle of the night" calf cramping. Started just after my micro-discectomy for Herniated Disc. s1-L5. Had surgery almost four years ago and have been dealing with it ever since. A friend had the SAME surgery a month after me, and he ALSO has the same cramping. Weird. Cause neither of us had it BEFORE the surgery. I recently discoverd that it lessend greatly when I did the "neurol flossing" WHILE stretching. In other words, while doing the piriformis stretches, i would flex, and contract my left foot and toes 20 times with each stretch. The cramping started to go away.

    Then, disaster. I re-herniated a week and half ago. This time, s1-L5, AND L5-L4. Same old story. Percoset. Neurontin. NUMB LEFT FOOT. Bed-ridden all day. Constipation. All of it. Had MRI AND epidural last week. No relief as of yet from epi.

    And did I mention that I don't have health coverage anymore??? yeah. awesome.

    So, waiting it out. Hoping that the body will absorb the herniations quickly, before having to get another surgery. But, I'm not optimistic. Plus, everyday I wait, I risk permanent nerve damage with the numb left foot and all.

    Anyway- thought I 'd ahare the stretching/neural floss thing with you guys...maybe it will help.

  • Ever since my fusion l5/s1 I have had pain in the calves and feet. Reading above I am going to try water with potassium and magnesium. After stretching I do feel better for a short period but it returns.Hopefully the vitamins do the trick.It is more of a nuisance than extreme pain. Thanks for any reply's.
  • I haven't had L/S surgery but i do have wedging, herniated and dehydrated discs and vertebrae and I have suffered with cramps since I was 18 when i had a whiplash injury to my lower spine.

    I was told the cramps were due to pressure on the sciatica nerve.

    Luke and Richmond's experience would put paid to that as I am sure that part would have been carefully adjusted during your surgeries.

    When a cramp wakes me i literally scream.

    Another time i will get severe cramps is if I kneel down, say to wash something on the floor, or to garden. I have to try and get up as quicly as I can.

    Sorry for the repeats, I will try and delete them.
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