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Are there medications to prevent muscle cramps?

In recent times, the only medication that has been widely used to prevent, and sometimes also to treat, cramps is quinine. Quinine has been used for years in the treatment of malaria. Quinine acts by decreasing the excitability of the muscles. It has also been shown to be effective in many, but not all, scientific studies. However, quinine also causes birth defects and miscarriages as well as serious side effects. It has also occasionally caused hypersensitivity reactions and a deficiency of platelets, which are the blood components responsible for clotting. Either of these reactions can be fatal. Quinine is also associated with a cluster of symptoms called cinchonism (nausea, vomiting, headaches, and deafness). Additionally, vision and heart irregularities can occur. Consequently, quinine tablets are not available in the United States. Quinine is available in grocery stores in tonic water. The U.S. FDA does not recommend or endorse the use of quinine to treat or prevent muscle cramps. Nevertheless, quinine is sometimes recommended as quinine water (tonic water) prior to bedtime to prevent night muscle cramps. Always consult your health care professional before taking quinine for cramps.

Return to Muscle Cramps

See what others are saying

Comment from: judy, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: March 15

I am 82 and have suffered with nocturnal leg, foot and ankle cramps for about 5 years. Sometimes they were excruciating. I tried everything that I read about to no avail. Then I discovered what works for me and hopefully for other sufferers; exercise. To be specific (and you should probably work into these gradually) warm up with the knee-to-chest raise, first one leg, then the other, then both knees at the same time. Start with 10 and work up to 30. Then do the pelvic tilt, tightening your butt muscles, then do individual leg lifts, working up to 30 on each leg, then do half sit-ups, working up to at least 20. During the day, while sitting, bring your toes up and then point them down several times in a row. I hope this works for you as well as it has for me.

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Comment from: Betty B, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 02

I ate a couple of spoonsful of yellow mustard and the muscle cramp went away almost immediately.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: Codge, 65-74 Male (Caregiver) Published: September 11

The only real cure for muscle cramps is quinine. However over a long period it can cause tiredness. Magnesium works ok but only if you have normal kidney function. If you are taking statins for high cholesterol they may cause cramps. Sometimes they are so bad you bleed into your muscles. The cramps are not related to the dose of statins. Once you get a cramp from statins they are constant and debilitating. This is from personal experience over 20 years. I am a medical scientist.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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