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  • Severe Leg Cramps (long story - I ramble!)

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    Old 10-26-2005, 08:46 PM   #1
    brokenbruised's Avatar
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    Severe Leg Cramps (long story - I ramble!)

    Okay, I know this is long, and I'm sure there have been similar subjects posted before, but I couldn't find an appropriate thread. Please move this if it's in the wrong place!

    This is my life now.

    I am not yet forty. I am not quite menopausal! I have high blood pressure and have been dealing with it for over ten years now. Thyroid stopped working normally about fifteen years ago due to a virus of some sort. I am overweight, always have been. I have never been overly active, but that has slowed even more in the last eight to ten years. There's the background.

    I have had two severely bad leg cramps in the last two years.

    That doesn't sound like much, I know! But I don't think anyone realizes just how bad these cramps were and how they have affected me and changed my life, which is partly why I'm writing this.

    Let me start by stating that I know leg cramps are common as we get older - but I don't believe I am older yet! *is so in denial* And more importantly, I don't think cramps of this severity are common at any time.

    The first one happened in April/May of 2004 and lasted for a few minutes in the middle of the night. It surprised me that something as common place as a leg cramp, which I've suffered from since I was a teenager, could be as intense and painful as this was. It took hours for the muscles to relax fully and then I was left limping around for a few days. Keeping my leg up seemed to help so that's what I did and it passed fairly well with a little patience. Saw my doctor, he wasn't concerned - in fact he said nothing at all in response to my telling him that I'd had a bad leg cramp. I was disappointed but not about to push it - after all, it's a cramp! Big deal.

    March 2005. Next leg cramp. Multiply the last incident by 100 and I think we come close. It didn't get better. Ever. I didn't sleep again that night. Or the next. I couldn't walk. It took 10 minutes to get down a single flight of stairs. I missed work. In the meantime the muscles in my other leg, despite never having cramped like the other one, did the same thing. By the end of that night (spent walking, trying to relieve the cramped muscles in my right leg) my left leg felt as if it had suffered the same trauma. I saw my doctor and he laughed at the information that I'd found online and gave me a list of things to do, including being less active in the evenings. Less active than sitting at a computer for four hours straight? Did he look at me before he said that? Do I look like someone who runs marathons each night?

    Anyway, he ultimately discovered I was low in iron. Something that he said showed up on my blood test from four months earlier but he had missed. After many apologies he sent me for more blood tests, confirmed I lacked iron, told me it would solve my problems. It didn't. More online research, talking to others, etc., led me to the belief that I needed more calcium in my diet and that many had found results with this simple addition so I added it to my daily rituals. Further online research turned up the fact that iron supplements can *cause* leg cramps. I wasn't thrilled, but didn't stop taking the pills. Added Vitamin B because a website suggested it could help. Couldn't hurt, right? I cut caffeine from my life. Zero tolerance. Believe me, that was something I never thought I'd be able to do, but I was motivated by fear - what else could I do?

    The muscles loosened eventually, to some degree, but in all honesty that took nearly four months to happen. That's right. Four months. Four months of slowly working the muscle, stretching, building strength. I joined a gym and they were shocked that the muscle was still so tight after so much time that I couldn't perform the simplest stretches, but I perservered and eventually it became less of an issue. Less of one - not an issue that had disappeared from my life.

    Six months past the first leg cramp and I didn't have any major cramps like that again. But that's not exactly a victory. I saw my doctor again, iron levels had improved, we cut my iron supplement back. I mentioned I still have the leg cramps and he suggested adding Vitamin C to the supplements I take.

    Now it's over seven months past that single incident and my legs have not magically repaired themselves. They have not healed. They hurt. I sincerely believe that I did permanent damage to the muscles in my legs because nothing has ever made them feel whole again. There are times where I'm completely relaxed when I can forget about the pain, but the moment I move again it's all brought back fully.

    I am terrified. Terrified of reliving the pain of that night that had me wishing I kept a gun in the house. At least then I would have the option of using it if it got worse. Amputation would have been acceptable too. I cannot stress enough that I'm not exagerating this. I will admit to perhaps not being able to handle pain well, but that's truly a side issue because the fear of the pain is nearly overwhelming sometimes. I lay in bed crying and praying to a god that I had stopped talking to twenty years ago to protect me from my own body. If I thought it would work I would promise him anything to be free from this, but I have as little faith as I do ability to manage my fear. What happens the next time? I could hardly endure it the last time.

    Not every night is the same, but every night that my legs have that tremor in them, that my toes start to twitch uncontrollably and my foot arches with cramps of its own, I am a complete wreck. These were symptoms from the evening when I thought I was simply overtired and went to bed hoping it would pass, only to find that sleep - calm, undisturbed, uncaringly peaceful sleep - was a thing of the past. I never sleep that soundly now. I am always aware that if I roll over in the night that I have to be careful how I do it. I must keep my knee slightly bent, never locked. I must point my toes up, never straight. I do not all my legs to stretch straight, no matter how much they want to. I must move slowly and control every motion. Then I must relax and hope that my legs relax too. If they don't, then a spike of fear go through me that's so intense that I know I won't sleep again for hours. My stomach spasms and I have to run for the bathroom, feeling like I'll throw up. Inevitably it ends in diarrhea. I now sleep longer each night in the hopes that I never get so tired that my muscles ache. Even as a child of 3 or 4 I can remember my legs hurting when I was tired, so that concerns me.

    Panic attacks? Yeah. I know. But it doesn't help to tell myself the usual things that I do to get through a panic attack because I know there's no guarantee that everything will be alright. If the worst does happen - it IS bad. Will I survive it? How can I tell? I know I don't want to survive it. I just want it to end.

    Sex is most certainly not the same. Orgasm is particularly concerning - must keep the knees bent, toes flexed. And as the orgasm builds, so does the heat in my right foot. Connected? I have no way of knowing, but it didn't happen before the leg cramp issue, so it's included here.

    Basically this issue has completely changed my life. It is on my mind, and in my actions, every moment I'm awake or asleep. There's always some little part that is considering how I'm sitting, am I cutting off circulation, did I take my calcium pills (the one thing that seems to help overnight - when it's bad, taking an extra one of these seems to help), flex those toes, don't sit in one position too long, do not make sudden movement, do NOT sit cross-legged EVER!

    My doctor seems uninterested in hearing about this. He saw an iron deficiency, treated it, and feels that this has been resolved, despite my repeated complaints.

    Speaking of said iron deficiency - it turns out that some of the problems I had been having - shortness of breath during moderate activity, for instance - disappeared completely after being on this supplement for three months. Hurrah? Not really. These symptoms had been going on for over five years. Five years of thinking that I was just too lazy, that if I was more active I wouldn't be gasping for air at the top of a hill, that I could walk for fifteen minutes without feeling like my lungs would collapse. No, all I needed was the iron to carry the oxygen through my blood. When I asked my doctor how long this had been showing in my test results he pulled up a graph that had the last six months and said this was all he had to show me. Why can't I get an answer as to how long this went unnoticed?

    Could the five plus years that he missed my iron deficiency have done sufficient damage to the muscle tissue in my legs to have somehow cause the leg cramps?

    I know I sound anti-doctor, but I'm really not. I am perhaps anti-MY-doctor.

    And now what? What do I do to make this a thing of the past? Will it ever be over? Will I ever be able to sleep without worrying that I missed one of my calcium pills during the day? Has anyone else suffered anything similar? What helped? What didn't? Who do I turn to next, since my doctor has proved ineffectual and disinterested?

    I'm going to try to see a physiotherapist to get some help, as well as see what I can do about the pain, and the fear of the pain. Would a pain clinic help? I really have no knowledge of what they do there. I am also going to push for a muscle relaxant in the hopes that something like this will help in the future, though I'm not hopeful of it making a great difference. But perhaps that the knowledge that it's there will ease some of the panic? I don't know.

    And this is way too long. Sorry for not being able to narrow my thoughts to a nice succinct paragraph, but tonight is one of those bad nights, and sitting here is forestalling laying down.

    Thanks in advance for whatever replies/support/suggestions you may be able to offer. And thanks for making it this far. Sorry!

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    Old 10-26-2005, 10:52 PM   #2
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    Re: Severe Leg Cramps (long story - I ramble!)

    I have had leg cramps not as severe as yours and magnesium tablets stopped them. Worth a try?

    Last edited by nikkle; 10-26-2005 at 10:52 PM.

    Old 11-08-2005, 03:18 AM   #3
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    Re: Severe Leg Cramps (long story - I ramble!)


    First of all you need a different Doc.You answered your own question when you stated that you were not anti doctor --just yours.

    Yes I can relate to the type of muscle cramps you speak of.I have chronic spacticity which have pulled all my tendons shorter.I have had pain that I never thought could exist.I had 2 previous back surgeries and they didn't feel like this.I could of cut my legs of with a chain saw.This is an all day thing with the cramps.My blood work all came back normal.I seen a neurologist and through several test I have been diagnosed with progressive MS.It's not cureable but liveable.I do physical therapy and it has helped all the way around.I take zanaflex for the spasms it has been a God sent.
    Find yourself a doc who is willing to listen.I have been to so many docs in the last 11 months,I have finally put together an excellent team of Doctors.
    Best wishes


    Old 11-19-2005, 03:38 AM   #4
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    Re: Severe Leg Cramps (long story - I ramble!)

    I agree that you need a different doc. Go see him , and laugh and tell him how sorry you made a mistake, thought he was a professional, and that he could read. You might have a magnesium deficiency. The only way you can confirm this is with an INTRACELLULAR test. Magnesium is an intracellular element. You blood will try to maintain itself at all costs to the other cells. It will rob magnesium so therefore, your serum magnesium will probably show up o.k.... If you get to the point that your serum mag. is deficient... you are in real trouble. Most doctors don't know this, or even bother to research magnesium. I would type in "importance of magnesium" We had my mothers intracellular magnesium tested at Spectracell in Houston.. Your doctor can call them and order the kit and your doc's lab can do the test. its very siimple. Also type in Mildred Seelig and low will see your symptoms. It might not be your problem, but since doc's think supplements are stupid, and you get plenty of nutrients in your food, I might inform them that they don not fertilize with any has been depleted for years in the crops that they grow.

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