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Another night of leg cramps!

sacramentassacramenta Posts: 16
I don't get it. I thought with herniation all symptoms should go away while lying down. Every single night my legs cramp so bad it takes me hours to go to sleep and I am exhausted. I have tried every position. Nothing helps. I have tried all my vitamins and minerals and adding more water during the day. Tylenol PM makes me feel hung over. The only time I was able to sleep is when I had pain medication from my doctor but he does not give me enough to take at bedtime until the next visit. Any ideas because I have just about had it? I am tired all day and have to work for a living. Does anyone else have this? It seems most are comfortable when able to lie down.


  • i know what you mean with the leg cramps...they can be killers especially at night. well, youve got problems on both ends of your spine so just from the disks youre going to have problems. based on my experience...and my problems are on both ends also...rest is the key. some how you have to take some frequent breaks and give the body a little rest. if you sit a lot get up frequently and change position.
    are you doing any stretching?
    what has your dr told you about the best way to treat you back and neck problem?
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,434
    seem to happen more with spinal patients. I cant tell you how many times in the past 30 years I would wake up in the middle of the night and my calf or toes would go into serious time spasms. I would try to get out of bed to walk it of... I did that, but when I came back into bed and move, the spasms would start again.
    Over the years I have learned about several things you can do to minimize these problems
    - Exercise and Stretching. That will help your muscles. We must all realize that with Spinal Problems, our muscles tend to do more of the work.
    - Eating habits. When you eat, what time you go to bed etc. I was told that eating foods high in potassium (ie bananas) would help reduce those spasms. I cant say that really worked for me.
    - Restless Leg Syndrome. Some of the effects of RLS is muscle spasms

    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
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  • My muscle cramps are the result of permanent nerve damage to my spinal nerve roots. Decreased blood supply to the nerve roots causes the cramping in my legs and toes(google neuroclaudication or pseudoclaudication.) Usually rest and a heating pad on my back helps.

    It could be also be other things. If you have high cholesterol or coronary artery disease, you could have cramping from arterial insufficiency. Like Ron said, restless leg syndrome or altered potassium levels. If it was in one leg only, one might be suspicious of a blood clot.

    Most important is to talk it over with your doctor. In the meantime, you could try heating pad to the back or heating pad to calves/toes when it occurs, too, to see if any of the mentioned measures help. If your spine doc doesn't think it's spine related, see your primary doctor about it.
  • Hi,

    also muscle cramps in legs can be a sign of not enough Calcium.

  • I first had sciatica three years ago (mis diagnosed, I now believe, as piriformis syndrome). Since then I have suffered awful leg cramp only in the affected side. I asked my gp and physio and they both said it was not related to the sciatica. I have to admit I never believed them! Since my sciatica reoccured this april I have been looking at all these forums and it seems that it is a common complaint when you have a slipped disc so it was related all along.
    My calf would go solid like a brick and would stay that way for 10 min or so. This, of course, made me scream. My husband, sympathetic as always, would go "oh its only cramp thank god!" and would go back to sleep. I think he thought my back had gone again each time. My leg would then be painful for a good day or so.
    I also had it go once in the swimming pool and my foot stuck out sideways for 10 minutes!
    Also my calf sort of twitches most of the time. If you put your hand on it you can feel it moving under the skin. This has been the case for the last three years.
    Mine cramps at night and also when swimming. I combatted the swimming cramp by working up my distance gradually and stopping to stretch the calf every 5 minutes or so, then I would do 10 minutes. Just before my back went again I had got so that I could do 20 minutes plus without stretching. I was swimming an hour a day by the time the pain came back. Now I have to start all over again!
    I have read (about and tried) sleeping with my foot at right angles to my leg (ie not pointed) and this does help. That means I lie on my front with my foot over the side or the end of the bed. It has helped a lot but is not that comfortable. In fact, until my back went again, I had pretty much stopped getting the night cramps unless I had done some aerobics or the like which involved a lot of bouncing using the lower leg.
    Pregnant women are advised to drink tonic water containing quinine to combat leg cramps - I wonder if this would help?
    I asked my ortho sugeon about it and he confirmed that it is a symptom of the herniated disc.
    The cramps have now returned, although most of my leg pain has gone now. I wonder if it is part of the healing process or if my nerve is permanently damaged now given that I had been having these cramps for three years.
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  • Yes, the leg cramps are related to the herniated disc. I had a large L5-S1 herniation and many times I would wake up in the night with the horrible leg cramp in the calf. Made me sit straight up in bed and want to scream. Had to try and stretch it or walk it off to make it go away. Usually took about 10 minutes or so. It has happened only a couple of times since my discectomy 8 months ago, and that could have been part of the healing process of the crushed nerves.
  • I also have very bad muscle cramps at night. It seems related to the horizontal position. Cold makes it inevitable. There is only one medication that works and that is Neurontin, a prescription medication that is used mainly for diabetic neuropathy. As my neurologist explained, it is the safest of safe drugs and he advocates selling it over the counter. I still have trouble, but without the Neurontin, it is impossible to lie down. My cramps usually wake me up about 4AM with twisting my foot inward from the ankle, not pleasant. Walking is all that helps at this point. Has anyone ever had minimally invasive surgery? I hve had injections with no help.
    Rheumatoid, psoriatic, osteoarthritis; lymphedema
    Spinal fusion L4-5
  • I've had a herniated L5 since 1997. For a number of years it would just slip back into place, and not trouble me for ages. However, in 2010, I cork screwed my back while sitting on computer chair (armrest gave way). The following day, woke around 6am with a pain so intense in my right foot, it felt like it was in a furnace. By 8am that feeling had moved to the knee. At that point, I was literally screaming in agony. Subsequently and ambulance was called, and I arrived at the ER.

    They gave me some type of muscle relaxer, which solved the problem, but created another: blood pressure dropped dangerously low. Anyway, they sorted that out. A CAT scan revealed the L5 had badly prolapsed. 

    Since then, the disk has never gone back in, and I've been left with a partially numb leg, foot and toes. 

    A few months back, and after a recommendation from a friend, I tied Cold Laser Therapy. I've had 6 treatments so far. My back pain is at an all time low. Previously just putting on boxers, pants etc., I'd have to sit. Now, I'm able to get dressed with no real issues.

    However, the leg cramps (rephrase... cramps from hell) while not as regular, are still causing me grief, and, as others have mentioned, when one comes on, you immediately wake-up screaming. Not only is my quality of sleep, lousy, it affects my daily life too.

    The only way I've found to stop these cramps, is to take a hot-shower for about 10 - 15 min. It must raise the blood temp (if only by .5 degree) but it's enough to stop the cramp(s). Following this, I've been applying Voltaren Gel to my calf, and L5 disk area. That seems to stop them for the night. But... using Voltaren Gel on a regular basis, apparently isn't a good idea, as too much use could be toxic.

    The other possibility... Being 57, I've choked a bit of weight around my belly area. And, with core muscles not being what they use to be, the extra weight, is placing additional pressure on my L5 disk. Which in turn, is aggravating the nerve, and causing these cramps.

    Reiterating, the Cold Laser Therapy has done wonders for my back, but these cramps-from-hell, don't seem to be getting better. Last ditched effort, I'll try dropping a few kilos (approx 7), around my midriff/back area, and maybe that will help. I'll keep you posted!

  • LizLiz Posts: 9,710

    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I have to close it.

    Please create a new discussion to discuss this topic


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
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