Leg cramps de­stroy peace­ful sleep

Cape Breton Post - - LIFESTYLES -

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.

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