Leg cramps destroy peaceful sleep
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I go to bed, my calf muscles cramp and contort my feet. To alleviate the pain, I have to get out of bed, stand up and physically push down on my feet. The pain is so bad that twice I have fainted. One time I hit my head on the nightstand and required stitches. I am a man, 69 years old and in good health. — B.N.
ANSWER: No one has an explanation for nocturnal leg cramps, something that happens to lots of people, particularly older people. Some suggest that a deficiency of potassium, calcium or magnesium is the cause, but it’s the cause only if there really is a deficiency. Few people have such a problem. Dehydration also has been blamed. Make sure that you get enough fluids during the day.
Some self-help techniques can work. One of those is taking a hot bath before getting into bed.
Stretching the calf muscles has stopped cramping for many. Do this stretch at least three times during the day and again before lying down. Stand two to three feet from a wall with one foot slightly in front of the other. Put your hands on the wall and begin raising your hands on the wall until you feel a good stretch in the back leg. Hold that position for 20 seconds and repeat for the other leg. Complete at least five stretches for both legs.
When you get in bed, make sure the blankets covering your feet are loose. Tight blankets push the feet downward and induce a cramp. If you wedge a pillow between the soles of your feet and the end of the bed, that keeps the feet propped up and prevents cramping.
Everyone cites quinine as the ultimate remedy. It was a popular remedy until it was taken off the over-the-counter market because its dangers outweigh its benefits. However, some still maintain that a glass of tonic water before retiring keeps cramps at bay. Tonic water has a small amount of quinine in it.
If you do get a cramp, don’t jump out of bed. Massage the cramped muscles with one hand and pull the front of your foot toward your leg with the other.
The booklet on restless leg syndrome and nighttime leg cramps provides more tips. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 306, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a cheque or money order (no cash) for $6 Cdn with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read your article on varicose veins. Are the same treatments used for spider veins? I have them around my ankles and lower legs. — J.B.
ANSWER: Sclerotherapy is a popular treatment for spider veins. With a fine needle, a doctor injects those veins with a solution that causes their walls to stick together. The veins collapse and disappear.
Lasers also can obliterate these veins.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Lots of fruits and vegetables in the produce department of grocery stores have been shipped from South Africa. Since HIV and AIDS infect so many people there, could it be spread from those fruits and vegetables? I am sure infected people must be handling them. — C.M.
ANSWER: Of all the things in the world to worry about, this is something you don’t have to spend a single second on. HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus), the cause of AIDS, is not spread in this manner even if a thousand infected people handle your fruits and vegetables.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read your article on removing women’s facial hair. It mentioned Vaniqa. I tried purchasing this cream at a local pharmacy. They did not have it. Will you please advise me where I can obtain it? — E.M.
ANSWER: Vaniqa cream requires a prescription. You won’t find it on the open shelves. It does remove unwanted facial hair, but it’s not the only way to deal with that problem. The manufacturer is SkinMedica, Inc., of Carlsbad, Calif. The website is www.skinmedica.org. If your doctor prescribes it, I’m pretty sure your drugstore will obtain it for you.