Muscle cramps in the feet and legs can be very painful and typically become more common with age. These episodes often occur at night (known as nocturnal muscle cramps) and can interfere with a senior’s ability to get uninterrupted quality sleep. Experienced family caregivers share their tips for preventing and relieving cramps and muscle spasms in elderly loved ones.

How to Prevent and Relieve Muscle Cramps in Seniors

“I have periodic bouts of very painful foot cramps/spasms, and the podiatrist gave me a prescription for something to rub into my feet. You can still massage your loved one’s feet and legs to provide pain relief but ask their doctor for a prescription and use the ointment as a lubricant like you would lotion.” –Lolli47

“My mother complained of foot and leg pain, and she used to get cramps in the middle of the night when she was sleeping (Charley horses). I started her on magnesium supplements. No more pain, no more nighttime cramps.” –TooYoungForThis

“When my dad’s feet or legs cramp, massage helps the muscles relax. You can feel where the spasms are. Rub your hands together all over to warm them up, then start with the palm of your hand to broadly massage the foot. Get the whole area. Start below where the spasms are and work towards them. This should lessen the cramps. Then, with your fingers and palms, give a deep massage where the cramp is. Massage until the cramps are relieved. You can also give your loved one mustard or pickles to relieve the cramp. I know it sounds weird, but it works!” –kathyt1

“Magnesium and potassium deficiencies can cause wicked muscle cramps. My dear husband gets grapefruit-size, rock-hard knots in his leg muscles. The only way to relieve them is by having him take coconut water, Emergen-C in juice or water, and a magnesium glycinate or magnesium gluconate supplement. That takes those down very quickly. A deficiency in CoQ10 can also cause bad muscle cramps. When someone has bad muscle cramps, you can massage them till kingdom come, but they will keep coming back with a vengeance. You really need to get magnesium and potassium into them to help the muscles relax.” –Chimonger

“After I broke my leg in my late 40s, it would cramp up on a regular basis so badly that I would uncontrollably scream out in pain and could not walk. The only things that helped were acupressure and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy. I use the Tony Little TENS machine and I do my own acupressure at home. I was lucky because I happened on the acupressure point by accident and I knew about TENS therapy from previous injuries. Knowing where the cramps are coming from (at what point in the foot or leg they start) is important to know what pressure point to use or where to place the TENS pads. I highly recommend both. Each has virtually no side effects if done properly. You can consult a physical therapist for a while, just long enough to find out the pressure points and the place to put the TENS electrodes (and what strength to use). After that, you can do it at home with little to no cost after the initial purchase of the TENS machine.” –wa22or

“Hyland’s Leg Cramp Relief Tablets (available at Walmart and other places) work well for my husband. It also comes in a PM form for nighttime leg cramps.” –Judyjourneys

“It’s important for seniors to consume enough fluids each day. If toxins aren’t expelled from the body, then they build up and can cause some cramping. Zinc and magnesium are also important in muscle function, but I’d speak with your loved one’s regular doctor before adding a supplement just to make sure it doesn’t interfere with any of their medications or other medical conditions. Sometimes raising the affected leg and pointing the toes straight out can help. Standing on it or putting that foot on a stair or block and pushing down on the heel can ease the cramping as well. Everyone is different.” –terryjack1


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“I have had foot cramps and some calf cramps in the past. My foot doctor told me not to laugh, but to put a bar of soap at the end of the bed under the fitted sheets. I thought, ‘Hey, I will try anything to not have those cramps.’ I might still get a little cramp now and then, but nothing like I was. I still have the soap in place, and it’s been a couple of years. My husband uses a teaspoon of mustard for cramps, though. He swears by it. It’s got turmeric in it and that’s what does the trick. I’ve tried it and I say it tastes so bad that you forget about the cramping!” –pargirl

“My father used to eat a banana every day to keep his potassium levels up. His doctor had recommended it to prevent his nighttime leg and foot cramps, and it worked for him.” –bweichbr