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Question : I get severe hand and foot cramps, especially around the time of my menstruation. Is there anyway of preventing or alleviating the cramping? I am active and in good health.
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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April 14, 2011
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A:

Muscle cramps are very common. And the pain can be extremely intense.

Some women report an increase in the frequency of muscle cramps just before their menstrual period and during the first couple days. I could not find a scientific reason for this.

All kinds of remedies have been proposed to treat and prevent muscle cramps. When many therapies are proposed for a condition it usually means none are highly successful. This is certainly true for muscle cramps.

Safe things you can try to prevent muscle cramps include:

  • Taking vitamin B complex
  • Taking low dose magnesium supplements (as long as your kidney function is normal)
  • Eating lots of fruits and vegetables to get extra potassium
  • Avoiding dehydration

While stretching is often recommended for people with leg cramps, the evidence that this helps is mixed. Since it is safe, I recommend gentle stretching during the day and especially before bed. For example, you might try gently pulling back on your fingers and toes a few times per day and when you first get into bed at night.

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