It’s the middle of the night and you’ve finally fallen asleep. Even if it’s just a doze. Then, out of nowhere, you scream out in agony because your leg and foot have cramped up severely. So severely, in fact, that your toes contract and contort into strange positions. The pain is so intense that you can’t even put your feet on the floor or against a wall to stretch your toes back out to normal. The muscle cramps in your leg are so powerful that it feels strangely reminiscent of labor pains. In fact, sometimes it even seems to ebb and flow in that same manner, just like contractions. Eventually the pain subsides, but then it happens a few more times during the night.
This is the story for many fibromyalgia patients who deal with fibromyalgia and leg cramps. And some of them don’t even realize the connection to the debilitating muscle cramps and spasms to their fibro. However, the American College of Rheumatology says that 42% of those suffering experience fibromyalgia and leg cramps. That’s actually a different symptom from straight-up muscle pain that effects 100% of fibro patients. So what causes these cramps or spasms in the legs and often the feet as well? Frankly, they don’t really know for sure what causes fibromyalgia and leg cramps. At least not in regards to fibromyalgia patients in particular. So let’s just move on to finding ways to alleviate it. There are many techniques for dealing with fibromyalgia and leg cramps. You just have to find the one that works for you. We’ll only cover two here.
The Journal of Integrative Medicine reported on a magnesium study and its effects on fibromyalgia conducted at the Mayo Clinic. The first study of its kind, researched examined how effective topically applied magnesium is for alleviating six different symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, including muscle cramps. The study found that after two weeks of applying a solution called “Fibro Flex” to their skin, fibromyalgia patients saw improvement after just two weeks of consistent use. The improvement was maintained for the duration of the study that lasted four weeks.
“This study confirmed existing medical research, which says that maintaining therapeutic serum magnesium levels has been linked to a lowering of fibromyalgia symptoms including depression, tender point score, and fatigue,” says the National Fibromyalgia Association. Other than some irritation on the skin where the spray was applied, test-subjects did not experience any other negative side effects. Given that most everyone in the West suffers a magnesium deficiency, this could be helpful for more than just fibromyalgia muscle cramps.
TENS Machines & EMS Devices
If you’re like me, a TENS machine didn’t sound remotely familiar. I first came across it on a fibromyalgia forum, where I thought someone misspelled it. But then I discovered that I have used something similar many times in my life, particularly at the chiropractor’s office. Do you know what I’m talking about? I mean when you go to the chiropractor and they hook you up to these little electrodes. It almost feels like they make your muscles flex and relax with electricity. I always have to keep mine at a really low setting because I am so sensitive. But they are really helpful. And now you can get them for private use at home. Those are called EMS devices which help to increase blood flow to the muscles, increase range of motion, and more. It can be a life saver for fibro patients!
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) sends stimulating pulses over the skin and nerve strands to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. Take that in for just a minute. Now, think on this: it also is used to stimulate the body to produce more endorphins or natural pain killers. A key difference between a TENS machine and EMS devices is that you wear the TENS machine on your body. No worries, it’s small. But many fibromyalgia patients find if very helpful and effective as an alternative to pharmaceutical pain relievers. In other words, it’s safe, non-invasive, and drug-free pain management.
Are There Any Other Methods?
There are absolutely other methods of relieving the often debilitating and agonizing pain from muscle cramps/spasms that accompany fibromyalgia. Vitamin E is reported to be very helpful for muscle cramping, especially for those who live a rather sedentary life. Many have had great success with the prescription drug Lyrica, which is one of the more common pharmaceuticals used to treat fibromyalgia anyway.
There are other options such as acupressure. Some fibro patients have learned how to do this to themselves. But you’ll need to begin by visiting a quality acupuncturist or acupressurist first in order to get some direction. Yoga is exceptionally beneficial for keeping the muscles stretched and mobile. This leads to greater blood flow and minimizes cramping. For some fibro patients, it works completely. The keys are to not overdo it and to listen to your body. One more option is called the Bowen technique, also known as Bowen therapy. Similar to acupressure, this technique uses gentle rolling movements to promote healing and pain relief. It’s so effective that it’s even used for horses!
Do you have any experience with these methods of dealing with fibromyalgia and leg cramps? Which ones helped and which ones failed you? Have you found a different method or technique that works for you? Please share your thoughts with us. Maybe you stumbled upon something that just might help fellow fibromyalgia patient deal with their fibromyalgia and leg cramps.