Medications for Leg Cramps

According to the National Institutes of Health, leg pain is a common symptom and complaint among both men and women, particular older adults. Pain and cramps in the legs typically occur during sleep or after a period of unusually active physical exertion. Sometimes they are due to a medical conditions. There are medications available to help ease the discomfort of leg pain.

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Muscle Cramps

When leg pain is caused by a muscle cramp it is commonly referred to as a "charley horse." Leg cramping may be the result of dehydration or low levels of potassium, sodium, calcium or magnesium in the blood.

The use of diuretics can result in the loss of excess fluid or minerals. The cholesterol-lowering medication statins can cause injury to the muscles and cramping may result.

Injuries & Ailments

Leg pain also may be due to an inflamed tendon (tendinitis) or shin splints (pain in the front of your leg that is due to repeated pounded or excessive use).

Other frequent causes of leg pan are blood blots that commonly develop due to extended periods of bed rest and inflammation of leg joints that result from arthritis or gout.


Medications recommended for leg pain may vary depending on the cause of the pain. They generally include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

If a blood clot is present anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as coumadin and others may be prescribed.

Cellulitis (infection of skin or soft tissue) and osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) are both treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics for osteomyelitis may have to be taken for an extended period.

Additional Remedies

According to the NIH, leg pain may be lessened with the use of vasodilators that work to relax muscle cells and nonmercurial diuretics that counter the retention of water and salt.

Quinine may help reduce nocturnal cramps. Drinking 8 to 16 ounces of tonic water that contains a very low dose of quinine before bed may alleviate discomfort.

A more potent dose of quinine is available by prescription.

The NIH says other medicinal options to relieve leg pain include antihistamines and hydrochloride (a salt of hydrochloric acid).

Supplementary Medications

Among the supplementary medications that may be beneficial in easing the discomfort of leg pain is calcium lactate. If your leg cramps tend to surface at night, take a calcium-lactate supplement with a warm cup of milk.The suggested dose is 200 to 300 mg. Calcium-gluconate tablets may also ease discomfort.

Quinine is also sometimes used for nocturnal leg cramping.

Non-Medicinal Treatment

In some cases your doctor may recommend physical therapy for leg pain. If you have been diagnosed with a blocked artery your doctor may insert a balloon catheter (used enlarge a narrow opening) into the artery to help free restricted blood flow.

If your pain is the result of over exertion or cramping, you should rest and elevate your leg and carefully stretch and rub the sore or cramped muscle.

It can also help to apply ice to the tender area for up to 15 minutes four times per day.


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