Are These Painful Symptoms Normal?

Q: I have cramps, muscle spasms, and chronic pain in my legs and feet, but no numbness. I have been to a neurologist and a vascular doctor, and neither found problems. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms? And what did they do about them?

A: It's great you've seen specialists about your pain. They can rule out nerve damage (neuropathy) linked to prolonged high blood glucose levels and poor blood circulation, which can lead to leg and foot pain.

Cramps and muscle spasms can be related to an electrolyte imbalance, overexertion, and dehydration. If you have no dietary restrictions, be sure you are eating enough potassium to restore your electrolytes. Potassium-rich foods include raisins, bananas, apricots, and wheat germ. Drinking alcohol, often a cause of dehydration, can also lead to muscle cramps in some people. So practice moderation, or better yet, abstain from alcohol.

Some medications have been linked to muscle cramps. These include albuterol, niacin, diuretics, certain calcium channel blockers, and antipsychotic medications. If any of these medications are prescribed for you, discuss alternatives with your provider.

If you have a cramp while exercising, stop and lightly stretch the muscle until the cramp goes away. Gently massaging the muscle also may help. Make sure you stay hydrated.

If you are at rest when a muscle cramp occurs, get up and put some tension on the muscle by walking. Avoid sitting in one position for longer than an hour. Some people find that cold packs help; others get relief from a warm bath. To prevent cramping at night, gently stretch your muscles before going to bed.

Virginia Zamudio Lange, R.N., M.S.N., CDE, is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator, and a past president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.