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Shin and Foot Cramping Over Night

JwriterJJwriter Posts: 140
I've been diagnosed this past April with Psoriatic Arthritis, that has been responsible for destroying spinal discs for the past 3 to 4 years now according to my Rheumatologist. I have had a L5/S1 fusion in 1991, a C6/C7 Fusion in 2009, a C7 Foraminectomy this past May and many many cortisone injections at different levels (including SI Joints) over the years. I am on Humira, Amitriptylin, Oxycontin, Percocet, Lyrica and Soma in attempts to lessen pain and associated symptoms PLUS I have an implanted Lumbar spinal cord stimulator as of last October. Having said that, for the past 3 to 4 months now, I have been experiencing excruciating nightly cramps in my shins and feet that wake me out of a sound sleep...and often mean the end of my night's sleep because of the pain they leave me in. The ONLY way to relieve them is to get-up and attempt to walk the cramps out, and even when I'm able to do so my shins (especially the left leg) feel as though someone had been repeatedly kicking them so getting back to sleep is next to impossible.

Now my question is, has anyone else experienced this kind of cramping and if so...what have you been able to do in attempt to prevent them from happening?? Any reply and/or advice would be appreciated...my Doc says there all due to the Neuropathy (nerve damage) that I've had and that not much can be done for them.

Thank you!



  • I have also experienced night time cramps that wake me up! :''(

    I haven't had them in my shin, but do get them in my calf and foot; both on the top of my foot and also in the instep and my toes.

    I have tried various things to help;

    Eating bananas for the potasium
    Eating plenty of calcium rich foods
    Taking magnesium baths - Epsom salts
    Drinking LOTS of water daily

    Going for daily walks
    Exercising - especially leg stretches
    making sure that my legs don't get cold during the night

    If I get cramp during the night;

    I try to stretch it away (trouble is stretching one area sometimes causes cramp to develop in another!)
    Getting out of bed and standing on my foot
    Going for a walk around the room

    If anyone has found anything else that helps, PLEASE do let us know.

    Hope that you can find something new here to try Jeff :-)
  • Hi Jim,

    I have been experiencing shin and foot cramping for several months now, although it has always happened when I'm awake. Lying down generally triggers the spasms and walking or putting pressure on the leg only partially helps. I think my cramping is being caused by stenosis. Am having L4-S1 PLIF in three weeks and am hoping these weird cramping episodes stop afterwards.

    Whatever is causing your foot/shin cramps, I hope you can find some relief. :)

    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
  • Hi Jeff,
    I'm new here & have a bulging disc @ L5-S1. I have been experiencing these horrible shin pains too. The pain is bone deep & feels like someone has my leg in a vice. I wish I had some answers for you. You have enlightened me, because I was wondering if this new symptom was even related. Now I'm sure that it is. Hoping one or both of us can find some answers very soon.
  • Sorry to hear. When I get cramps and muscle spasms I have to take Flexeril a muscle relaxer. I still get the cramps if I walk too much. Awakening with cramps is just awful. I find it hard to stand up right away as my foot is numb for at least 20 minutes after waking up so it's hard to jump up and put the affected crampy leg on the floor. Sometimes I can put my leg on the wall and it goes away. Heating pad helps some what. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • My issues are protrusions at the L2/3/4 and I don't get the feet cramps sleeping, I get them in my pool of all places! It doesn't matter if I do hard aqua work outs, or just gentle walking in the pool. None in the shins, just the feet...painful for sure!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Many thanks to all of you whom replied to my post, and what I've discovered is that there's really no rhyme nor reason as to what brings the cramping on. I do indeed eat plenty potassium rich foods daily, I do the stretching exercises a few times each day and I do take the anti-spasmatic meds as prescribed.

    Having said that, I've pretty much just resigned myself to the fact that I'll be dealing with the cramping (shins, feet) to one degree or another as time moves on...just the nature of the disease that not only affects the joints but also ligaments, and tendons which is what the shin cramping is all about.

    My frustrations stem from being tired ALL day long thanks to the constantly interrupted sleep, and along with that comes the inherent crabbiness, anxiety and a bit of depression too...simply because I'm feeling helpless to do anymore than I am to alleviate what's going on. Additionally, my Docs can't really do anymore either in the way of meds or therapies that might help.

    Thanks again and I hope that you all have a safe, pain-free and enjoyment filled weekend!

  • Do you take lipitor or any of the other popular statins out on the market? About 2 months ago, I was complaining to my PM Doctor that the cramping in my legs had increased ten fold. He had my PCP order a muscle enzyme test to see if the lipitor was contributing to the problem. Turns out my numbers were very high and that was contributing to the increase in cramps. Everything is back to the way it was before lipitor turned on me.

  • I get cramp in my calf and sometimes in the side of my leg, so not in the shin. But I have found that to stop the calf cramps at night I need to have my foot at right angles to my leg ie my toes must not be pointed. That meant that if I slept on my front (which I haven't done since the fusion) I had to have my feet over the end or the side of the bed, or my ankles on a pillow or silmilar. I get the calf cramps a lot while swimmimg when there is no choice about pointing my toes.
    I sympathise with your pain, my husband would go "Thank God its just a cramp" when I would sit up yelling in the middle of the night (I think he thought it was my back getting worse or something)but they don't half hurt and would leave me limping for a couple of days. I don't get as many night cramps since the fusion but the problem remains on swimming although not quite as bad.
  • Jeff, if you have hypertension and take medication for it, check to see if your med contains a diuretic. That will rob your body of potassium pretty fast. Muscle cramps and racing/irregular heartbeats are side effects of a potassium deficiency.

    I suffer from shin cramps as well, especially at night. I found that doing *light* stretching (you should never stretch to the point of discomfort) and holding the position for about 20 seconds helps. Most people know how to stretch the calf muscles but often forget about the muscles in the shin. Stretch the shin muscles by either standing or sitting on a chair, placing your foot on the floor behind you, and gently laying the top of the foot on the floor. I also gently massage my shin muscles, which also helps alot.

    I have suffered on and off with critically low potassium and have had to take prescription supplements to correct this. You might want to ask your GP to run a basic blood panel just to be sure.

    Aside from bananas, which most people think of as a good source of potassium, orange juice is also a good source. If your market carries them (and you like them), avacados are an excellent source of potassium too.

    It's a pretty simple thing to check your blood potassium, and it may point to the cause of your muscle cramps. I'd urge you to talk to your GP about that before assuming that your cramps are due to your psoriatic arthitis.

    Best wishes to you, I know that's a tough diagnosis to deal with. Take good care.
  • I get the cramping and burning along with it in my shin, calf, and half of my foot. I assumed it is part of the nerve stuff happening. I find that icing helps sometimes.
  • He would get them in the night a lot and, if he could get into a warm tub or I would dip a towel in hot water and wrap it around his leg, it really gave him relief. Funny thing is, since his fusion, he does not get cramps any more. Hope they are gone forever.
  • I appreciate the continuing comments and have since tried icing and heat before bed...but to no avail. On Friday night into Saturday morning, I actually slept fro 1:15 a.m. until 7:55 which is the most sleep I'd gotten in many months now and that was awesome! Having said that, I copied exactly the same routine last night and slept from 1:30 a.m. until only 5:55 a.m., with getting up twice during that period of time with shin/feet cramps and then also again for good at 5:55 a.m. So you see, that's how it goes for me with no rhyme nor reason as to why it happens and that's incredibly frustrating to say the least!

    In doing much research, I've come to find that peripheral nerve damage (be it in the legs or arms for some people) works just the way it goes down with me...some days are good and some are bad, all depending on how compromised the nerves get over a period of time and that's EXACTLY why it can be so disabling for some. I've not been able to work since July of 2006 due to my conditions and I can't imagine even trying to with what I have going on...getting to work after such little little sleep would not only be dangerous (lack of sleep, necessary meds, etc.) but I wouldn't be very productive if I actually were able to make it to work without incident. My SSDI is pending and I should have a determination soon.

    Thanks again to all and I hope that you have a wonderful and pain-free Sunday before the new week is upon us...a "fresh set of downs" as I call it, any football fans out there like myself will appreciate that one! Goodbye for now friends and take care!

  • I've gotten those cramps for the past 20 years. The worst is in my calf but the toes get bad also. I had hammer toes surgery in my early 20's and often thought that had something to do with it.

    For me they can happen during sleep which seems to be the strongest or for a while they happened at any time of the day but driving seemed to bring them on.

    My quick and easy solution is to take 2 aspirin with a small glass of water. Not sure what it does but within 2 minutes the cramp eases. My husband is trained now to run for the aspiring when I wake up screaming :) see they are trainable
  • I've had this.
    Much like JellyHall...I do same things.

    I found the cramping and pains are worse if my water intake is low. I have a big camelback bottle and try to drink 2 of those a day minimum. I also found that when I stopped taking multi-vitamins, I started having issues so I've been trying to eat the foods JH recommended. And, walking and stretching are good too.

    If I get them in the middle of the night...I'm doing what you are doing, getting up and walking around the house. I've found that motrin helps so not sure if my back is inflamed when this happens and the nerves are mad.

  • Saw my Ortho surgeon whom is my follow-up and med guy and he's of the belief that it's the "biolgic" med (Humira) that I'm taking for the Psoriatic Arthritis that's causing a myriad of new symptoms over the past 4 months.

    Evidently, it takes the body time to regulate itself since everything about one's metabolic system is changes by the med, with another very big annoyance being that my sense of taste has diminished by 50% in the same time. Often, I have to look twice to see what it is I'm eating since the flavor is sometimes close to non-existant.

    So, the routine remains the same, the biologic, the nerve meds (Lyrica) and the pain meds (the Oxy stuff) with hopes that time will improve all.

    Thanks again my friends...

  • JWriter, I had a L-1-S1 360 fusion several years back, I get terrible foot and leg cramps some times. I have tried everything. I think mine may be caused by inactivity. I can only walk a short distance, can't stand more than a few minutes before my pain gets out of control. When my cramps wake me, I get out of bed and walk them off, by then forget going back to sleep.
    Now am having neck problems and having difficulty getting the right tests to make the doc's realize its real. The web of my left hand is sunken enough to use for a shot glass, and am now getting arm cramps. Believe it or not they are harder to get rid of than leg cramps. The other day I tried some Valium that I got as a muscle relaxer. It worked well, but makes me drowsy and I don't like the feeling. But it is better than the cramps.
    Best of luck...Butterbean
  • Thanks B.B. and I wish you the best of luck too...since I too know just how much the arm-pain/hand cramping can hurt and yeah you're right, they can be harder to get rid of than the leg cramps!

    Since having the C6/C7 Fusion in June of 2009 and then the Foraminectomy in May of this year, the pain has drastically subsided in my left arm (which was the most affected) but the numbness in my left ring and little finger remains...it may take longer or it may never return, that's just the nature of the beast when dealing with nerve impingement.

    As for your Docs, you're right in thinking that certain tests will provide evidence of the neck issues you're having...and don't be afraid to investigate what lab work might serve you that way too. I'd ask for any lab work to be done that might show chronic inflammatory conditions...I believe a "sed rate" test is what I'm thinking of. You might also want to be checked for there being a "rheumatoid factor" present as that's just what I did this past April and lo-and-behold it uncovered my being ANA positive (a Lupus/auto-immune disease marker) and as having Psoriatic Arthritis...both of which the Docs were over-looking and hadn't tested for until I asked.

    Best wishes to ya B.B. and I hope you have a close to pain-free rest of the weekend as possible!

  • FredschulzFFredschulz Posts: 1
    edited 11/25/2012 - 9:46 PM
    I came here to see what the cause might be for my severe shin cramps that have been waking me in the middle of the night. I have seen some responses that stated if they were hit by shin cramps that they were up for the rest of the night.

    While I have not solved the shin cramp problem for myself, when I do get them I can make them go away by drinking a large glass of water, at least 16-20 ounces. Within 5 minutes the cramps are gone. I have been trying to drink a bunch of water before going to sleep and sometimes I am successful when doing this but I have sometimes still had the shin cramps hit even after drinking water before sleep. Nonetheless, when I do get them the large cup of water has always made them go away and I able to sleep the rest of the night.
  • What helps me is drinking at least 100 ounces of water per day. The only relief I have found is getting into a bath of hot water. Usually gives relief within a minute or so. It sounds funny, but putting a small bar of soap under my fitted sheet in bed and approx midway down my shin helps. Change it out every couple weeks. It's worth a try! Good luck!
  • jellyhalljjellyhall Posts: 4,372
    edited 12/06/2012 - 4:45 AM
    My grandmother used to do that!
    Something else I've heard of is corks in the bed.

    I must say that I haven't tried either of them. Perhaps I should!
  • I use tablets that contain potassium phosphate and magnesium phosphate for normal cramps, during the cramp and as prevention.

    However, they did nothing for the continuous cramps initiated by the nerve root damage that lasted for months.
    For me, only nerve pain medication (Lyrica) was able to address those continuous cramps, as they were initiated by the brain in response to nerve compression. That medicine stopped the nerve signals getting to the brain and the brain then stopped cramping up the muscles.

    As always, discuss any over the counter medications with your doctor before using it.
  • I too get leg cramping at night. I have S1 nerve root damage and have had microdiscetomy and fusion at L5-S1 but this did not help with the nerve damage and have been told this is permanant. The leg cramps do not come from low potassium, low fluid intake, electrolyte imbalance or inactivity or overexertion. It is directly caused by the damage to the nerve root. I take Remeron as prescribed by the pain clinic I am treated by and this seems to help... somewhat. Klonopin is also used off label for leg cramping associated with nerve root damage.
  • I just have a severe case of scaitica. The leg cramps, arch, to little toes, and pressure pain on the bone on the side of your hip. The only thing that works is a cocktail of lyrica,hydrocodone, robaxin(muscle relaxant), diazapam ( muscle relaxant), 2 tylonol, and a vitamin that has a lot of magiezium and potasuim. Lastly for the foot and bone pain ( nerve pain) lidoderm patchs along with ice at the base of the back work best.
    It sounds stupid but a relaxation technique I learned years ago helps tremenoesly, Imagine your a ballon and each time you exhale the balloons air goes out a little.

    I am not a doctor and this is just my expereince. hope it gets better
  • I have both so bad I can hardly walk. A nurse at a local hospital told a friend who was injured while jumping out of bed with a bad leg cramp the following remedy. I thought it was bizarre until I tried it out of desperation.

    Swallow one to three teaspoons of yellow mustard and drink some water. The cramps go away within seconds.

    My shin cramps were so painful last night I could hardly walk to the kitchen. This is an unbelievable successful remedy.
  • joljjol Posts: 1
    edited 01/31/2015 - 10:26 PM
    So glad to know I'm not a freak, but sorry so many others suffer from these painful shin cramps. I've described them to my doctors as 10x more painful than the worst calf cramp. My magnesium and calcium levels are fine. Thyroid seems normal. A nerve conductivity test was normal (but that was 5 years ago). I've yet to find any surefire way to relieve them. Walking doesn't help. At times they've begun while taking a preventive hot bath. I'll try the mustard remedy as well as aspiring. However, I'd really like to figure out what is causing them. A neurologist suggested spinal compression and prescribed PT. The PT could find nothing mechanical to work on with me. My hands also cramp, although not nearly as often as the legs and feet. As those of you who've had these shin cramps know, the pain is downright frightening.
  • patpoplppatpopl Posts: 1
    edited 02/01/2015 - 3:24 AM
    I, too, have suffered from these cramps off and on for about 15 years. Rather bad recently. I had no idea they might be related to my psoriatic arthritis; I will have to talk with my rheumatologist about them. I have found one thing that brings them on is how I sit in the evening. When you sit down, be sure you back up to the seat, then swing legs up if you do that. I find if I bend my leg first and then sit, it triggers the cramps a few minutes later and they may continue to wake me up several times during the night. One thing that helps is something called a "Stick" that runners use on their legs after long runs. You roll it up and down your leg with as much pressure as you can stand. Doesn't feel good, but it does work out the knots in the muscles. Alternating that with walking it out improves your chances of getting comfortable faster. You could probably buy one on line or at any athletic store that caters to runners. A warm soak is also good, but I suspect you, like me, might not care to do that in middle of night.
  • bistro641bbistro641 Posts: 1
    edited 03/29/2015 - 3:39 PM
    I have found that this works to reduce pain in my shins. At one time, years ago,,,,broke my tibia and fibula and shattered my ankle. I had serious damage to my lower leg, and now have continual pain daily with my shins and calves. I also take Voltaren and Ibuprofen PRN.
  • I have degenerative disk disease and bulging disks in L4 and L5. I have been getting cortisone injections for about 10 years. After my last round of injections, 2 years ago, I started having terrible shin cramps. Usually they occur at night when I'm in bed, but they often happen while swimming as well. I've always suffered from calf and foot cramping, but the shin cramping was new. I started researching this and saw many posts from people who had been given cortisone injections and started having leg/shin cramping. I asked my pain management doctor and he said that one of the side effects of the cortisone is cramping and that if you cannot find a way to manage it on your own, there are medications that can be prescribed that will help. I do not get them as often now as I was after the last series of injections, but I do still get them every once in a while. I find that taking magnesium helps a little. I really hope this information helps someone because I know how frustrating and painful the cramping is.
  • A quick timeline of my story:

    3 years of on again/off again Sciatica, doc thought it was piriformis syndrome. Sent to Physical Therapy where deep tissue massage made it much worse. Doc refers me to a Physiatrist.

    Develop bursitis in hip because of limp and issues caused by ongoing Sciatica. Physiatrist thinks it's muscular and wants to do cortisone injection in hip.

    Specialist does cortisone in hip and for 10 days life is good.

    Travel to Hawaii and have 3 great days then the mother of all muscle cramps begin, injuring my leg so bad I end up in the ER with blood work showing severe muscle injury (and scaring me to death!). CPK was 3400. Normal is <250<br />
    Return home to find blood work returned to normal, cramps continue. They gradually taper off and now are back with a vengeance!

    The specialist now suspects maybe a spinal issue and orders MRI. Due to the severe cramps I can't lie still on a hard table for 45 minutes.

    Prescribed flexeril and it doesn't help much at all. Still cramping. Then was prescribed a new muscle relaxer, supposedly stronger. Metaxalone (Skelaxin) Did absolutely nothing. They gave me Valium in the ER but docs refuse to use it.

    These cramps are like nothing I've ever experienced. My shins, arch of feet, toes, calves. hamstrings. Also achy low back and burning ache on top of thigh?

    I have tried every cramp treatment known to man. My kidney function appears to be fine based on the latest blood work of last week. I am hydrating enough to float a boat, taking calcium and magnesium, trying to stretch, tried tonic water, tried soap in my bed ( don't laugh, I was desperate and people swear by it!), drank pickle juice (ewwww), powerade, take an aspirin, every folk cure, and thing I could find.

    I was so sure it was the cortisone shot that brought it on because there are zillions of reports of that but now a month later the good effect of the cortisone seems to be gone yet the cramping continues. Your input makes me think it may be stenosis or a disc issue.
  • I read Dave's comments when I found this forum about a month ago looking for solutions to my cramps and stopped taking atorvastatin I was started on by my doctor more than a year ago. Looking back, it seems my bouts with terrible cramps on waking up, sometimes lasting 15 minutes of intense pain started a few months on the medication. I did not make the connection and neither did my doctor who suggested some leg stretching before going to sleep which did not help much. Since stopping taking the medicine, I had only one cramp the following week and none the last two weeks. So far, so good.

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