Q&A on cramps

Jason Lee answers your follow up questions on his article, Coping with cramps.

Q. Brenda
I read Jason’s advice on cramps, which works wonders on lower legs, but I suffer from very deep cramps down the front of the leg from the hip to the knee. These cramps are so bad I can’t move.

Lower leg cramps are nothing compared to these higher cramps. I take magnesium each night and try to stay hydrated. Is there any other advice for these severe deep cramps.

A. Cramps in the upper thigh can be caused by a number of factors. When experiencing these cramps, an option to relieve the cramping may be to alternate between an ice pack and heat pack for several minutes. I would recommend approximately thirty seconds of ice followed by thirty seconds of heat. This can promote a quick increase in blood flow to the area which can assist with the immediate discomfort.

To reduce the likelihood of cramping, I would recommend you try regular stretching of your upper thigh throughout the day. If comfortable and safe to do so, bend your knee with the aim of bringing your ankle to your bottom in a standing position.  Feel free to pull the ankle up towards your bottom with your hand or even a towel wrapped around the ankle. Hold this position for approximately 15 seconds and repeat this process at least four to five times throughout the day.

Q. Carol
As well as leg and foot cramps I get rib and stomach cramps, usually when I move in a particular way and most often in bed. I have been taking quinine sulphate tablets (doctor’s script) but doctors are not keen on prescribing it these days as it can have an effect on platelets apparently. I think I get a little benefit from them but I don’t take them on a regular basis unless I think the cramps are building in frequency, I just hate getting them in the first place. I can deal with the leg and foot cramps once I have them with stretches and walking about but I just have to grin and wait with the torso cramps.

I am 70, female and, after a gastroscopy, colonoscopy (NAD) and iron infusion am currently on iron supplements due to iron anemia (first time in my life), on Pradaxa, had thyroid cancer in 2003, breast cancer in 2009, lots of osteoarthritis (spine, knees, shoulders, elbows, hands, feet), fibromyalgia – I have been extremely active in the past until I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome in 1996. I love walking but currently have a number of limitations. Can you suggest anything?

A. Rib and stomach cramps are a very debilitating and painful experience, having experienced several myself. Given the nature of your cramping and the positive response that you get from the quinine sulphate tablets I suspect that the cramping may even be a result of referred pain from the middle or lower back region.

I would recommend you try to increase your mid-back and lower-back mobility. Try sitting with your arms across your chest. Turn your top half to one side as far as comfortable, and hold for one to two seconds. Repeat this process to the opposite side and repeat for a total of five to six times.

Jason Lee APAM
B. Physiotherapy
Malvern East Physiotherapy 

Jason is happy to answer any questions you may have, simply send an email to [email protected].